Japan to Test Pulse Detonation Rocket Engine

S-520 sounding rocket (Credit: JAXA)

JAXA plans to test a pulse detonation engine next month that uses shock waves to create thrust. The Japanese space agency believes the system could be used for deep-space exploration.

“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. “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 experiment will be launched aboard the S-520-31 sounding rocket from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture. The launch is set for July 20 from 5:30 to 6:00 JST. The launch window extends from July 20 until Aug. 31.

“In addition, for the purpose of acquiring large-capacity experimental data, we will also conduct an experiment in which the separation capsule is slowly lowered offshore and recovered by helicopter,” JAXA said.