JAXA Tests Pulse Detonation Engine in Suborbital Flight

S-520-31 lifts off with pulse detonation engine aboard. (Credit: JAXA)

JAXA said that on Tuesday it tested a pulse detonation engine that uses shock waves powered by methane and other gases to create thrust. The Japanese space agency believes the project could produce smaller but powerful engines for use on deep-space exploration missions.

The engine was launched aboard on the S-520-31 sounding rocket from the Uchinoura Space Center. The Japan Times reported JAXA recovered a capsule with test data from the ocean.

Rocket Model/No.Launch Time
Launch Vertical AngleMaximum Altitude ReachedLanding Time
S-520-3105:3080.0 degrees235 km/146 miles
(244 seconds after launch)
476 seconds after launch
Source: JAXA

“This experiment is the world’s first flight demonstration of rocket engine technology that safely and efficiently converts shock waves (explosive waves) generated when a mixed gas of fuel and oxygen reacts explosively into thrust,” JAXA said in a press release. “Technology of the detonation engine system (DES) combines a pulse detonation engine (PDE) that intermittently generates shock waves and a rotary detonation engine (RDE) that continuously rotates shock waves in a donut-shaped space.”

The Japan Times reported that JAXA is working the Nagoya University professor Jiro Kasahara to develop an engine that would be about one-tenth the size of ones currently used on deep space spacecraft. The engine, which could be ready for use in about five years, would be able to operate for extended periods of time.

Discovery of the Most Primitive Boulders on Ryugu: Observational Results from the Asteroid Explorer, Hayabusa2, Published in Nature Astronomy

Asteroid Ryugu photographed by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Rikkyo University
The University of Tokyo
Kochi University
Chiba Institute of Technology
Maebashi Institute of Technology
Hokkaido University of Education
Nagoya University

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Research results from the exploration of Ryugu by the asteroid explorer, Hayabusa2, have been published in the British online journal, Nature Astronomy, on May 24, 2021 (May 25 JST). Assistant Professor Naoya Sakatani (Rikkyo University) from the Hayabusa2 science team is the lead author in this research.


JAXA Selects 15 Innovative Micro Satellite Demonstration Projects

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has established a basic mission that uses micro satellites as part of the “environmental maintenance for stable supply of core parts of space systems” shown in the Basic Space Plan.

We are advancing the “Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Program” with the aim of conducting on-orbit verification of parts and new elemental technology in a timely and inexpensive manner.

We would like to inform you that we are soliciting demonstration themes for “Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Unit 3” and selected the demonstration themes (15 in total) from the 23 themes that we applied for, as shown below.


A Sunburned Ryugu: Asteroid Surface Weathered by the Sun

Artificial crater on asteroid Ryugu (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — New information about the surface and orbit of Ryugu has been uncovered from analyzing data obtained during touchdown and the global observations performed by the asteroid explorer, Hayabusa2. These findings have been published in the electronic version of the US scientific journal Science, on May 7, 2020 (May 8, JST: Morota et al, 2002). The paper was led by Associate Professor Tomokatsu Morota from the University of Tokyo and member of the Hayabusa2 science team.