The Japanese Space Agency has announced the first successful launch of a new engine design using ring detonation waves in space.
Classic jet engines have practically reached their theoretically possible ceiling. Therefore, engineers are actively working on alternative and more promising designs, including detonation ones. In such an engine, explosive combustion occurs, the products of which are ejected at supersonic speeds. This allows for more fuel utilization and greater productivity.
One of the variants of such an installation is a rotating detonation engine (VDE), in which shock waves propagate along an annular channel. In early 2021, Australian developers reported on the successful launch of the airborne attack at the test site. And now the Japan Space Agency (JAXA) has announced the first ever in-orbit tests of such an engine.
The launch took place on July 27 with the help of the S-520 (N31) meteorological rocket, capable of rising along a ballistic trajectory to the uppermost layers of the atmosphere. The eight-meter launch vehicle was launched from the Utinoura cosmodrome in the far south of Japan. Four minutes later, he reached an altitude of 235 kilometers, and after another four fell into the sea, where he was picked up by experts, taking a capsule with the recorded results of space tests.
Judging by the data received by the JAXA engineers, the tests were successful. After the separation of the first stage of the rocket, the VDD turned on and worked safely for six seconds, creating a thrust of 500 Newtons. It is also reported that there was also a pulse detonation engine on board, which also successfully turned on, although this event was not the first in history. Demonstration flights of the Scaled Composites Long-EZ aircraft equipped with such an engine took place back in 2008.