25 July 2001
News - Vehicles (Good)
ISAS Reusable Rocket Completes 2nd Flight Test Series
Aiming towards in-flight engine restart
by Patrick Collins
The reusable VTOL rocket developed and first flown in 1999 at the Institute for Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) in Japan has been upgraded and reflown successfully.

Photographs of the vehicle under preparation in-flight are available at www.isas.ac.jp/dtc/saisiyo/saisiyo.html#return1. Quicktime videos of two of its three flights are available at www.isas.ac.jp/dtc/saisiyo/rvt6.mov and www.isas.ac.jp/dtc/saisiyo/0625rvt6-42.mov.

Only 3 metres tall, the vehicle nevertheless uses a liquid hydrogen fuelled engine, and was designed for operability - quick turnround, easy maintenance and check-out. Its current configuration is intended to fly eventually to 100 metres altitude from where it will perform an inflight engine shut-down and restart. It is a key requirement for VTOL rockets that they be able to restart their engines for landing while falling through the atmosphere after re-entry.

In a recent interview in Space News (July 9), Dr Inatani described the project as being a step towards the Kankoh-maru vehicle designed for space tourism by a team in the Japanese Rocket Society.

The ISAS' vehicle is currently the only reusable VTOL rocket vehicle in the world - since NASA cancelled the DC-XA project in 1995 after it had flown successfully a dozen times, having spent some $40 million on the project which it inherited from the US Department of Defence. Instead, Nasa has spent $1.3 billion on the X33 and X34 projects, neither of which ever even flew before being scrapped. The US government has rewarded this delinquent behaviour by giving NASA an additional $5 billion to spend on its "Space Launch Initiative" which will be as ineffective as the X33 and X34 in reducing launch costs.
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Patrick Collins 25 July 2001
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