Japan on Tuesday successfully tested a rocket engine that was propelled by new technology using shock waves produced by burning a mixture of methane and oxygen gases, with the aim of applying the propulsion method to deep space exploration in the future, the country's space agency said.
The No. 31 vehicle of the S-520 sounding rocket series, measuring 8 meters in length and 52 centimeters in diameter and carrying the engine, lifted off from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture at around 5:30 a.m., according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
It reached an altitude of 235 kilometers four minutes and four seconds after the launch and landed in the sea southeast of Uchinoura about eight minutes later, with JAXA retrieving a capsule containing test data in nearby waters.
JAXA is currently developing technology that will allow it to utilize a rocket engine just one-10th of the current size that can also stay in space for extended periods.
Jiro Kasahara, a Nagoya University professor, jointly developing the technology with JAXA, said the test demonstrated that the engine maintained a propelling force in space as expected.
"We will aim to put the technology into practical use in about five years," he said.
"I'm glad the rocket was launched safely," said Shinsuke Takeuchi, an associate professor at JAXA, who was leading the test launch. He added the test results are expected to be reflected in future academic achievements.