Small sounding rocket for cosmic dust sampling

  • Home
  • Projects
  • Small sounding rocket for cosmic dust sampling


This project aims for sample return of small cosmic dust from space over an altitude of 100 km using a small sounding rocket. For example, the sounding rocket will be launched in the season of the year during which many small meteoroids hit the earth; accordingly, the availability for flexible launch windows is required. A small sounding rocket with the ability to reach an altitude of 100 km is being developed as an academic project. It has high safety and responsive launching ability with low cost. In addition, sea launch is selected in this project for high flexibility of the launch window, and air launch is studied to improve the launch capability. Currently, we are launching small prototype rockets to obtain basic data necessary for sea launch experiments.

Main activities of this project

  • Development of large-size hybrid rocket fuel
  • Development of a large-thrust-level hybrid rocket
  • Development of 100 km altitude class hybrid rocket
  • Development of a sample-return payload system
  • Establishment of a sea-launch system and its operation method

Research highlight

FY 2015Project launched.
Successful Combustion Experiment of a 1.5 kN Thrust Hybrid Rocket Motor
FY2016PERC established a rocket test site in Onjuku Town, Chiba Prefecture.
On July 8, a supersonic hybrid rocket was successfully launched using a 1.5 kN-class thrust hybrid motor at Izu-Oshima, reaching an altitude of approximately 5000 m.
FY2017Constructed static firing test facilities of 5 kN-class thrust rocket motor.
A 2.5 kN-class thrust combustion experiment was conducted as a half-size thrust level combustion experiment.
FY2018Started joint research with ASTROCEAN on sea launches
FY2019Japan’s first rocket was launched from a floating float fixed on Ajiro Bay on March 2.
ASTROCEAN and Obayashi Corporation started joint research on sea launch test.

Achievements to date

On July 8, 2016, a small hybrid rocket capable of reaching supersonic speeds was successfully launched on Izu-Oshima Island. In the experiment, the hybrid rocket was loaded with a low-melting-point thermoplastic fuel, and nitrous oxide was used as an oxidizer. The rocket was 2.5 m long, weighed 17 kg and used high-strength carbon fiber composite material (CFRP) to withstand supersonic flight. According to telemetry data, the rocket reached an altitude of 4.9 km. The analysis of the results indicates that the rocket was launched at Mach 1.22, and the experiment was considered successful.

On March 7, 2019, a small hybrid rocket was launched from a floating float in Ajiro Bay, Onjuku Town, Isumi-gun, Chiba Prefecture, reaching an altitude of 200 m, and was Japan’s first successfully launched rocket on the sea. The PERC and the ASTROCEAN carried out the world’s first sea launch experiment using a university designed rocket, with the full cooperation of the Iwawada Fisheries Cooperative. The objective of the project was to establish basic technology for the sea launch experiment of 30 km and 100 km class rockets for future development. On the launching day, the floating float was towed by the fishing boat to the launch point and fixed on the sea with four anchors. A small rocket was set on a launcher built at the center, and while the launcher was swinging slightly under the influence of waves, the rocket was ignited and reached an altitude of 200 m. There was no significant effect on the attitude change of the rocket when the launch pad was detached due to the influence of waves. The detailed behavior of the float at the time of launch was analyzed from the value of the acceleration sensor mounted on the launch pad. These results will be reflected in a plan to launch a small sounding rocket at an altitude of 30 km in 2021.


Yutaka WADA
Principal Staff Scientist, Planetary Exploration Research Center, Chiba Institute of Technology
TEL/FAX: +81-47-478-0513 / +81-47-478-0372
E-Mail: yutaka.wada[at]