Jeffrey Bezos of Amazon and Blue Origin fame better get a move on with his New Shepard vehicle or the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be putting him in the shade
Above is an artist’s impression of the proposed JAXA reusable vertical take-off, vertical landing sounding rocket that would travel to 100km (185nm) and back for microgavity experiments. But the experiments must be pretty big, just look at the tanker truck next to it! The rocket is a follow on to JAXA’s Reusable Rocket Vehicle Tests from 2001 and to get more detail on the new VTVL booster click through to the extended part of this posting
Find above technical detail for the reusable sounding rocket system. Unlike Bezos’ expected two-stage system JAXA is aiming for a single stage to suborbit; but then it’s not carrying people (or could it?)
At a height of 10.5m (34.4ft) JAXA’s rocket is almost 5m smaller than New Shepard, according to FAA documentation, and while JAXA’s rocket engine (see picture below) uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, Bezos’ is to use LH2 and kerosene; as far as know. Can you believe the Blue Origin test flight videos were released over a year ago?!
The 100 flight reusability target is pretty admirable, but how much reconditioning each of the rocket’s four engines will need after each mission is anyone’s guess. I often hear people say, but what mission requires frequent flights to space to get the cost down, where is the market?
Well after space tourism microgravity experiments has got to be a great market with many potential international customers to generate the revenues to develop the necessary technologies with the reliability and reusability at a sub-scale, compared to a people carrying vehicle, that can be evolved to a human rated vehicle. Well done JAXA, shame on all you other agencies
For those of you who dig propulsion diagrams, below is a close up of the diagram inset in the picture above
All the images in this blog posting were taken from a JAXA presentation given at the 15th AIAA space planes, hypersonic systems and technologies conference held in Dayton, Ohio this week