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Research on Reusable Vehicles

Dr. Yoshifumi Inatani
						Professor of Space Systems and Astronautics
						Institute of Space and Astronautical Science

We conducted the third series of flight experiments of RVT (Reusable rocket Vehicle Test) at the Noshiro Testing Center (NTC) from the 14th to the 31st of October. We are very happy to report that the first flight experiment since the integration of Japan's space agencies was a success.

The experiments were very preliminary efforts to build the kind of system that is required for reusable rocket vehicles. They were conducted as part of our basic research to facilitate frequent travel between the Earth and space. The purpose of the experiments was to accumulate design and operational lessons related to such things as takeoff and landing, and for safe and easy repeated flights.

We had already conducted two series of flight test since 1999, and accumulated experience with reusable systems. This time we incorporated three new elements:

- liquid hydrogen tanks made of light composite materials, in order to reduce the weight of the vehicle and extend its flight envelope;
- a new propulsion system to enhance durability and repeated use;
- a new system architecture of repeated flights and increasing fault tolerance.

Though we encountered various unexpected difficulties and bad weather, we managed to conduct three flight tests in a week, gradually expanding the flight range from static flight to dynamic flight. We tried to demonstrate the feasibility of these newly incorporated elements and collected data on their performance.

Unlike the launch operation of operational rockets, this kind of basic experiment requires quick on-the-spot decision-making in order to handle one new development after another. Our way of doing things, where every decision and action are made in a flexible and timely manner, seems to have left a fresh impression on observers from the other institutes within the newly integrated agency.

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