Japanese / English
It is a rocket with an engine system that combines 2 types of propellants: solid fuel
and liquid oxidant. As it is safe and environmentally-friendly and shows excellent cost effectiveness and
performance, it gathers attention as a next-generation space transport rocket.
In general hybrid rockets, resin, rubber and wax are used as solid fuel. But in this project, familiar soft candies will be used as solid fuel. How can a rocket be launched with candies? First, liquefied gas which is the oxidant will be poured into the cylindrical combustor filled with candies. Then, the candies will start burning as it melts, and gasification form will burst out with great force. This power enables the rocket to be launched into the sky. Approximately 20 pieces of candy will be used for 1 hybrid rocket. It is important to create an environment where the candies can be sufficiently burned in order to launch the rocket high into the sky.
Enhancing candies’ combustion efficiency
I specialize in aerospace engineering. In this project, I applied my knowledge in combustion engineering and rocket propulsion engineering to design and develop the engine for a hybrid rocket that uses familiar candies as fuel. I calculated the optimum ratio of oxygen for efficient candy combustion, and explored a combustion method for high efficiency.
Putting candies directly into the engine
The combustion test of a hybrid candy rocket was first attempted two years ago. The difficulty was the fabrication of candies into fuel. We experienced issues such as charring the candies in the process. Compared to other rocket fuels, candies did not readily combust as fuel, failing to generate large-enough propulsion. I worked on improving how to insert and combust the candies. More specifically, we adopted the approach of inserting candies as they are, instead of fabricating them. To contain the candies inside, we have incorporated a baffle, which also aids complete candy combustion inside the engine. These techniques have successfully turned these candies into fuel that combusts inside the engine and generates large propulsion. The current challenge is to make the engine lighter.
Importance of imagination and fascination of science
Through this project, I want people to learn that creative thinking could turn an everyday material, such as candies, into something entirely different like rocket fuel. I want to communicate the importance of imagination, fascination of science and the joy of creative manufacturing to people in every corner of society.
Safe and secure rocket-launching tests
Originally specializing in planetary sciences, my research centered primarily on terrestrial planets, working as a member of the research teams for the asteroid explorer HAYABUSA and SELenological and ENgineering Explorer “KAGUYA” (SELENE) to examine the development of the solar system. I switched my specialty to space science education after feeling the need to foster human resources capable of taking on Japan’s space programs, including the said exploration projects. We have worked with a number of communities across the nation to build rocket testing centers, allowing almost 1,000 students to get involved in rocket launch tests each year. My responsibility in this project has been primarily to tap into my experiences and networks to arrange a testing center for safely and securely launching a rocket without inconveniencing others.
Not as reckless entertainment
I paid particular considerations toward making sure that local people would wholly embrace this project rather than perceiving it as reckless entertainment. Taking on a fresh challenge is a positive move. Yet, it is important, at the same time, to gain the understanding of people affected by it and establish a supportive environment. Incorporating this perspective into the project was my biggest task.
Feeling that the world is a free place
Through this project, I want young people to become amazed and surprised, abandoning the conventional perception about what a rocket should be. I feel that, these days, there are many people who would restrict their scope of actions even without parents or teachers telling them to do so. I want everyone to feel that the world is a free place. At the same time, pressing on with ‘something dangerous’ as it is would cause serious inconveniences to those around you, I made sure to handle this launch in a ‘non-dangerous’ approach to assure people in the community. Young people should observe this project from the perspective of how to take on a fresh challenge while securing support from those around them.
Suggesting the idea of converting food into fuel
I am a specialist in radio astronomy and science communication. At the start of this project, I was the Director for Education and Public Outreach at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), managing PR and promotion for space science. In this project, I suggested that it would create a strong impact to launch a hybrid rocket with high-calorie food with sugar content. Then, I coordinated with experts who would find the idea appealing and join us in materializing the concept. Everyone was in agreement that the project was intriguing, but numerous hurdles including technical challenges made it extremely difficult to achieve a successful launch.
Space food as fuel for emergency evacuation?
I don’t know if this project would have direct significance with respect to cutting-edge space development. Yet, in terms of taking on a fresh challenge, the project has something common with space development. Considering a large number of unknown elements in developing a hybrid rocket that uses candies as solid fuel, even experts could not easily attain optimum design. Young researchers who learn while having fun through these types of projects will one day lead Japan’s space exploration program. It might be interesting to develop space food that also serves as fuel for emergency evacuation.
Always remembering the sense of fascination and passion
I want many people to see how adults like us are working with total commitment on this seemingly ridiculous project. However old you might be, you must never forget the sense of fascination and passion in taking on challenges.
*Data as of March 4, 2015 (researched by the Candy Rocket Project Executive Committee).