An RDE operates by using a kind of pressure gain combustion in which one or more detonations are repeated through an annular channel in a continuous loop, resulting in a continuous loop. The RDE has been shown to have significant promise in the transportation industry via computer models and tests.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has now effectively shown that it has the ability to contribute to deep space exploration. The detonation engine increases response speed by producing detonation and compression waves at very high frequencies (1 to 100 kHz). This reduces the weight of the rocket engine while also enabling it to produce thrust more efficiently, thus improving its overall performance.
This new engine system was placed on the S-520 sounding rocket No. 31 of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science’s S-520 sounding rocket series, which is now in operation. It was 5:30 p.m. on July 27th when the rocket lifted off from the JAXA Uchinoura Space Center in Japan. As soon as the first stage was separated, the rotary detonation engine generated about 500 N (112 lbf) of thrust, which is a small fraction of the thrust that conventional rocket engines can generate in space.
The success of this space flight demonstration experiment has significantly increased the likelihood that the RDE will be utilized in practical applications, such as deep space exploration rocket motors, first-stage and two-stage engines, and other applications.
Japanese space agency JAXA intends to use detonation engine technology in the future not just for deep space research missions, but also for a variety of other scientific activities. As a result, reducing the size and weight of spacecraft equipment may make interplanetary travel much easier and faster.
However, JAXA is not the only organization engaged in the development of detonation engine technology. RDEs are also being worked on by a number of groups in the United States. It is the capacity of RDE to decrease the fuel consumption of its heavy trucks that has piqued the attention of the United States Navy.
It was reported in May 2020 that a group of U.S. Air Force engineers had developed a very experimental working model of RDE that could provide up to 800 Newton-meters (lbf) of thrust by burning hydrogen and oxygen in a 2:1 ratio fuel mix.