Kaohsiung, July 10 (CNA) Taiwanese researchers conducted a successful test flight on Sunday of the second-stage propulsion system of the indigenous HTTP-3A sounding rocket, which could be used in the future to carry miniature communications satellites into orbit.
The 4.8-meter, 365-kilogram rocket designed by the Advanced Rocket Research Center (ARRC) at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University lifted off from a launch site in Pingtung's Mudan Township at 6:12 a.m.
Under the initial flight plan, the rocket was intended to lift off vertically for five seconds before arcing out over the sea, its engine shutting off after 60 seconds and a drogue parachute deploying after 90 seconds.
Then, after reaching a lower altitude, it would release a second parachute and land in the sea, having reached a top altitude of 12 kilometers during an 8-10 minute flight.
Sunday's launch fell short in that regard, as the rocket stayed in the air for two minutes and reached a maximum altitude of around 3 km, but it was nevertheless "a major technological breakthrough" and "99-percent successful," the ARRC said.
The test flight took place as part of the center's HTTP-3A project, which aims to develop a hybrid propulsion rocket capable of carrying miniature satellites into orbit at an altitude of at least 100 kilometers.
Specifically, Sunday's launch was a test of the second-stage rocket, which kicks in when the rocket has already reached a defined altitude. A test of the first-stage rocket, as well as the separation mechanism, could take place early next year, according to the center.
The Ministry of Science and Technology, which is supporting the project, said that in addition to testing the propulsion system, Sunday's launch was also an important trial of the rocket's flight navigation controls, ground support, and parachute recovery systems.
"Hybrid" rockets refer to their use of both liquid and solid state propellants. The fact that the fuel of such rockets is solid at room temperature makes them safer and easier to store, according to the ARRC.