October 2019 meeting

by Dave Nordling, Secretary, Reaction Research Society


The Reaction Research Society (RRS) met for our monthly meeting on Friday, October 11, 2019. We had a full agenda with three presenters and a lot discuss with upcoming events. 

We had a few new people come to our meeting including Frank Chandler who works with the Cal Poly Pomona liquid rocket project.  Frank joined the RRS as a member and we hope to see him and his students at future meetings and launch events.

Frank Chandler and Frank Miuccio talk after the conclusion of the October 11, 2019 meeting

We were also happy to have several Compton College students from their newly formed STEM club attend our meeting.  The RRS is glad to support the efforts of university students in their ambitions to build liquid rockets and we’re happy to add Compton College to the growing list of organizations we support.

RRS members Jerry Fuller and John Krell listen to Wolfram Blume’s presentation at the October 11, 2019 meeting.

We called the meeting to order and after the reading of the treasury report, we started the first of our presentations.

Wolfram Blume explains the parts of his two-stage rocket to our audience at the October 2019 meeting of the RRS
Wolfram holds the commercial solid motor he’ll use to propel his ramjet engine up to sufficient speed to start

[1] The Gas Guzzler Ramjet Project

Wolfram Blume is a new member to the society and he has been working for over eight years on a unique kind of rocket project that has been very rare in the long years of our society and probably in amateur rocketry as a whole.  His two-stage rocket consists of a first-stage solid rocket booster using a commercial grade motor and a gasoline-fueled ramjet engine as a second stage.  Both stages have a parachute recovery system and an onboard fuel management system. 

Wolfram Blume holds his 3-D printed fuel manifold at the inlet of his ramjet engine
Wolfram pulls his recovery system from within the ramjet engine to show how it is stowed and deployed with a redundant firing system.

Wolfram’s presentation was very thorough as this project is very complex.  The RRS is still assessing the project in all of its aspects.  With Wolfram’s permission, we’ll share the full set of details in a separate report here on RRS.ORG.  The Gas Guzzler project still needs several more static tests conducted to prove key parts of the combustor.  Flight tests of a dummy, unfueled ramjet and the solid booster are also being discussed.  We hope to share more details as this exciting project evolves.

The inlet of the ramjet for the Gas Guzzler project.

The RRS is happy to consider propulsion projects of all kinds, but every project must be peer-reviewed by the RRS before it is accepted for any testing at the MTA.  Testing at the RRS MTA is by appointment only.  All persons and groups interested in testing at the RRS MTA must submit a standard record form and all details of their proposed project. Our standard record form is available for download on our RRS.ORG website.  These materials must be submitted to the RRS president and after careful review that a test can be scheduled.

president@rrs.org


[2] Bill Behenna, Avionics Payload for the RRS standard alpha rocket

With the many school events we’ve been having through the LAPD CSP, we have had many alpha rockets getting flown out of the MTA.  The payload tubes are typically empty which creates a great opportunity for others to build and fly payloads in these small but powerful rockets being launched many times throughout the year.

Bill Behenna has been actively working on making a customized instrumentation package that would fit within the small confines of the long alpha payload tube.  Barometric pressure measurements, accelerometer readings and air temperature would be recorded on a solid-state memory chip which have been shown to survive even the harsh sudden stop into the dry lake bed floor if the parachute recovery system fails.

Bill Behenna’s breadboard of his instrumentation payload is taking shape.

Bill talked about his testing with his breadboard model using Arduino modules and an UNO microprocessor.  These instrumentation packages can be challenging to make, but they can offer a lot of great information on the flight.  The quality of data collection devices are ever increasing and the size and price of these instruments are ever decreasing.  It is a great time to be in amateur rocketry.  Many commercially available rocket instrumentation packages exist and are used more and more frequently in model rocketry.  The particular challenge with the RRS standard alpha is its compact size and metallic construction.

John Krell and Bill Behenna discuss their instrumentation packages before the start of the meeting in October 2019

[3] Review of John Krell’s Flight Data

In parallel to Bill Behenna’s efforts, John Krell has been working on a slim instrumentation package that measures the three-axis acceleration, barometric pressure and air temperature readings.  He conducted several tests of his system which was able to record data and a speed sufficient to capture the rapid combustion of the alpha flight.

John was able to get his first prototype, actually two prototypes, ready to fly in alpha rockets #9 and #10 at the September 21 launch event.  More importantly, the rockets were located downrange and extracted intact for examination.  The data confirmed that the burnout velocity is in fact subsonic, the burn time is just short of 0.40 seconds and the altitude of both rockets is around 4000 feet. What is surprising is that the maximum acceleration from the alpha exceeds even the 100G limit of the sensor.

John Krell begins his presentation at the October 2019 meeting of the RRS about the flight data captures in two RRS alpha flights on 9/21/2019 at the MTA

John’s report was very thorough and with his permission, the RRS will publish the full details of his project in a separate article here on RRS.ORG.  The most important thing is that John is already building more units for more rocket flights that will take place at another launch event at the MTA.  With more data, the flight parameters of the RRS alpha can be even better resolved.


[4] RRS presents at the CATIE conference at Antelope Valley College

The RRS was asked by Dr. Khalil Dajani to present at the California Aerospace Technology Institute of Excellence (CATIE) at the Antelope Valley College (AVC) in Lancaster, California on September 18, 2019.  The conference was an event for government and commercial companies in the Antelope Valley to network and to forge beneficial partnerships in the aerospace industry.  

I had asked Drew Cortopassi to attend the conference on behalf of the RRS.  Drew was also able to attend the conference on behalf of the Aerospace Corporation as he works in the Propulsion Testing Lab in El Segundo.  The RRS introduced ourselves as an educational non-profit group with resources that can help government and commercial companies with modest testing facilities.  The RRS was also proud to share with the audience our long history in the pursuit of reaction propulsion and research.

Drew Cortopassi summarizes his experiences at the CATIE conference at AVC on behalf of the RRS.

[5] RRS social media

Alastair Martin is one of our two social media advisors to the RRS.  As part of our regular monthly agenda, he briefed our audience on our Instagram and Facebook sites that we maintain along with the main website.  Alastair’s company, Production Tribe LLC, is producing the Rocket Talk Radio podcast which includes RRS members and discusses current and historical topics related to rocketry.

RRS event coordinator, Larry Hoffing, talks with Alastair Martin, social media advisor to the RRS, after the October 2019 meeting

[6] RRS launch events at the MTA

The RRS had a successful launch event with Boyle Heights on September 21 as detailed in a prior firing report.  The RRS is glad to announce that another launch event will occur at the MTA before the year’s end.

Frank Miuccio, our society vice president and our point of contact with the LAPD CSP, announced the next educational event will begin on October 25, 2019.  This 5-week course will be with 99th Street Elementary School in Watts.  The final step is the launch event at the RRS MTA on December 7, 2019.  The exact number of rockets is not known yet, but we are expecting 10 alphas.


[7] The RRS history project

The RRS history project is an on-going task to archive and collect all historical materials.  George Garboden has graciously donated a large number of documents to the society for storage, archival and scanning.  The RRS is glad to accept these materials to help bring more of our history to more of our members.  More than just the careful preservation of the reports and papers, is the larger task of sorting and scanning them.  We hope to enlist more of our membership to devote the time and care needed for the long-term success of this project.


[8] Update from the 2020 Constitutional Committee

The RRS Constitution is in the process of being revised to better reflect how the society functions today and making important clarifications of parts that were somewhat ambiguous.   This three-person committee was appointed by the executive council in February this year and consists of one executive council member, Frank Miuccio, and two of our administrative members in the society. 

Drew Sherman, Frank Miuccio, Mike Albert and Mohammed Daya listen as John Krell makes his presentation to the RRS on October 11, 2019.

The painstaking task of going through every page and every paragraph of the Constitution is almost half finished.  After a complete review of the whole document, the committee will present it’s findings and a recommended draft to the administrative membership for their questions and comments.  This was hoped to be completed by November 2019 with the goal of attempting ratification by the new year, 2020.

The committee has decided to continue the use of an RRS policy listing which would contain the more specific or quantitative aspects of the society such as the annual dues amounts.  Simpler and less categorical changes could be amended more easily by the council or by the administrative membership.  The Constitution itself requires a higher level of approval for any changes which includes a two-thirds majority vote by the administrative membership.  There will be more on this subject when the committee completes it’s initial task hopefully by next month’s meeting in November 2019.


[9]  The 2020 symposium

The RRS agreed to hold the next symposium in 2020 continuing the annual tradition.  Our membership commitment to making this next symposium an even larger and greater success is strong.  Frank is working on confirming the next symposium date which may be March 28, 2020, if the Ken Nakaoka Community Center can confirm.  The society will try to hold this event a little earlier in the year to hopefully avoid the onset of the warmer temperatures.  The community center does not have air-conditioning and we do expect a larger crowd as this has been the trend since we restarted symposium events in 2017.


[10] The treasurer’s report on membership

Chris Lujan, the RRS treasurer was not able to provide his report on our membership roster and status.  We hope to bring this report to the next meeting where we will show how well the society is doing in keeping current with receiving annual dues payments and show how much our membership roster has grown in these last few years.


[11] Reminder for annual nominations for RRS Executive Council at the November meeting

Per our Constitution, the RRS will be taking nominations for each of the four executive council positions at the RRS.  Positions are only open to administrative members of the RRS, and we have been expanding our ranks with former administrative members returning to active status and newer members being inducted in the last two years.  Nominations can be made at the next meeting of the RRS, November 8, 2019.

The 2019 RRS Executive Council: Dave Nordling, Osvaldo Tarditti, Frank Miuccio and Chris Lujan

With nominations received, the RRS will appoint an election chairman, to conduct the voting process with the results announced at the December 13, 2019 meeting.  All elected executive council members will begin their new terms at the start of the new calendar year, January 1, 2020.


[IN CLOSING}

This October 2019 meeting was one of the best we’ve had since my time with the RRS.  A lot of great projects are in the making and we’re getting more and more data to share with the society.  The society is growing and we’re glad that our enthusiasm is spreading.

The next meeting will be November 8, 2019, on the second Friday of each month as usual at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena.  If there are any questions about this October meeting, please contact the RRS secretary.  Hope to see everyone back again in November..

secretary@rrs.org


Rockets in the Projects

by Larry Hoffing, Educational Outreach Coordinator, Reaction Research Society


On a dusty, old blackboard at the Jordan Downs Community Center, it had a chalk tray but no chalk. I don’t think it had been used since the whiteboard had come of age. Juan, our local Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Community Safety Partnership (CSP) officer, saw my predicament, disappeared into his police sports utility vehicle and returned with a piece of white chalk he “outlined bodies with on the sidewalk.” He has a wry sense of humor and not without reason. These officers are sometimes called out to respond to a nearby situation on the street. Peace and war are very close neighbors in this part of town.

CSP arose in 2011 out of a program in the city of Los Angeles founded by Connie Rice, a civil rights leader, and the Urban Peace Institute. The idea was to pair the Los Angeles Housing Authority with the LAPD in an effort to improve relations with citizens in the public housing projects of Jordan Downs, Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts and Ramona Gardens. The Watts Bears youth football program is just one outgrowth of this program focusing on improving the quality of life and supporting the community.  Spending time with kids and financial investment pays off in the long term in lifetime earnings and with higher graduation percentages.

I’ve been teaching rocketry since the early 1970’s when model rockets (and more particularly the model rocket motors) became legal in California. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) instituted a summer playground Youth Services program that I spearheaded- federal monies helped to expand it city-wide.  The Los Angeles Fire Department, following a demonstration flight, permitted some of the city’s first launch sites at Pierce and Valley community colleges. In 2017, the LAPD came to my organization, the Reaction Research Society (RRS), to pitch the idea to start a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) program that would come to be called “Rockets In The Projects.” The idea was simple — reach out to at risk students with grand ideas about reaching for the stars and a practical series of learning experiences to help show them the way.

Founded in 1943 in Glendale, California, RRS is the oldest continuously operating amateur rocket organization in the United States. The organization pre-dates NASA by 15 years. Some of our early members went on to help launch the space race. We are uniquely positioned to partner with the LAPD to bring space flight and rocketry to south Los Angeles youth with our organization having an FAA-approved launch site north of Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert and licensed pyrotechnic operators.

Our founder, George James, presents at the 2018 RRS symposium last year.

In this program, after learning the basic laws of motion, some chemistry and the principles of propulsion and aerodynamics, we build and fly experimental rockets. It’s the first time most students, mainly from 4th to 6th grade, hold an Allen (hex) wrench, use fasteners (button head machine screws) and assemble parts with O-rings. (The O-rings on the Challenger didn’t get tested properly, it’s a simple but critical part). They learn about reducers, payload sections, and an ogive nose cone and what’s best suited for subsonic  vs. supersonic flights (the answer: it depends).

This is an equal opportunity team building program using the “A” for Art in STEAM. Each team makes it unique by painting the outside surfaces. Unicorns, polka dots, and stars are popular rocket paint schemes alongside video game and rock group names. 

5 of the 6 alphas sit in the rack; Osvaldo’s alpha with a parachute sits to the left.

These micrograin rockets develop around 300 pounds of thrust, leaving the launch rail in a fraction of a second and travel over a mile at velocities approaching the speed of sound. UCLA, USC, Cal Poly Pomona and other universities’ rocket labs test their latest designs at our site. It’s the real deal.

A fish-eyed lens view of an RRS standard alpha streaking up into the blue Mojave sky. This is our standard teaching tool on the raw power of a rocket.

This program is a chance for many students, most of whom have never been to the California desert, to reach beyond their four square city blocks. We introduce them to desert safety, launch protocols, and some of the local flora and fauna. There is a cool white rock found in the desert, also called “fire rock”, that is a type of quartz, that when struck together, creates sparks. 

Live demonstration of micrograin propellant at the MTA

We demonstrate the burning of various rocket fuels, including one used in the Space Shuttle, similar to a hard rubber eraser. A parent might ask, “What is the difference in fuels?” A really good question: gasoline is fine for getting around in a car, but it doesn’t have the “oomph” needed to escape the bonds of the Earth at about 25,000 miles per hour.

I drink from a bottle of water and say, “This rocket fuel tastes great!”. I ask for a show of hands and two believers raise theirs, hesitantly, agreeing that I’ve just drunk rocket fuel. “Don’t believe me?” I say. “Apply electric current to water (but do not try this at home!) and you can break off the hydrogen from the oxygen by a process called hydrolysis.” I clearly remember the day this experiment was run in my Van Nuys High School science class almost 50 years ago. 

Liquefied hydrogen is a fuel of choice for space exploration, along with liquid oxygen. If you are going to explore space, you need to bring an oxidizer with the fuel as there is neither above the boundary of space at the von Karman line (the boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and space, estimated at from 50 to 62 miles above sea level by various agencies).

Orientation for the launch event at the George Dosa building at the RRS MTA, 2019-09-21

There is no doubt that these rocketeers with the CSP program will remember “launch day” for a long time. One student was so overcome, he told us this was the best thing that had happened in his life. These young students are at an age when some day in the future they might not only be able to buy a ticket for interplanetary trips with the stars beckoning, but make it happen. Pressing a red launch button is life changing. Part of it has to do with the spirit of flight, the satisfaction of teamwork and building something yourself, something comes to life the moment the red button is pushed.

The RRS encourages the sciences and engineering, but it doesn’t really matter what career path they choose. The students accomplish something amazing in our program. We are proud of the work we do with the community and LAPD and we will have more classes to come.

The students of Boyle Heights with the officers of LAPD CSP and the RRS pose for a group photo at the RRS MTA, 2019-09-21

EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Hoffing is the Educational Outreach Coordinator for the Reaction Research Society (RRS.ORG), a 501(c)3 educational non-profit organization. He started flying rockets in junior high in the 1960’s. He is also a licensed rockets pyrotechnic operator in the state of California.

Contact Larry Hoffing at “events@rrs.org”

MTA launch event, 2019-09-21

Larry Hoffing, Events Coordinator, RRS

Photo credits: Osvaldo Tarditti

The Reaction Research Society held another launch event with the LAPD CSP. This event was with the students of Boyle Heights. We had ten standard alphas launched into the blue Mojave sky that day including some model rockets made by Russell Hoffing and my grandson.

A lot of different groups came out for this launch event at the RRS MTA, 09-21-2019

We had students from the CSU Long Beach liquid rocket team come out to make some measurements for sub-system testing that they are planning at the RRS MTA this year.

CSU Long Beach inspects the vertical mounting structure at the RRS MTA
Model rockets in the George Dosa building undergoing preparation for launch
Students from Boyle Heights get their orientation instructions at the RRS MTA
RRS events coordinator, Larry Hoffing; RRS VP, Frank Miuccio and RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditi

Returning RRS member, John Krell, had worked up two prototype instrumentation packages for flights in the ninth and tenth RRS standard alphas on that day. Both rockets were recovered and the results were impressive.

John Krell arms his payload integrated into one of two RRS standard alphas, 09-21-2019
One of John’s prototypes survived the flight and is laid out on the table in the Dosa Bldg.
John Krell examines the recovered SD memory chips to determine the flight profile from the RRS alpha. Over 100 G’s of acceleration at take-off max’d out the sensor!

Materials have been acquired to repair the adjustable rail launcher that was damaged in early August this year. Osvaldo has been busy at work on the repairs. The RRS has several facility improvement projects in the works and we hope to bring this rail launcher back to service soon for larger rockets (4 to 6 inches).

John will hopefully have a full report and an overview of his design. Both Bill Behenna and Brian Johnson are also working on their own instrumentation designs for the RRS standard alpha. With this recent progress, this should help our others members take better data.

Still photo from RRS alpha #3 of 10 launched at the MTA on 09-21-2019.

We’ll discuss more of the results of this event in detail at the next RRS meeting on October 11, 2019. The RRS meets every 2nd Friday at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, California. Stop in and see how things went.