August 2017 meeting

The RRS met for our monthly meeting Friday, August 11th, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. We were well attended, but got a late start. After the usual reading of the treasurer’s report, we began the meeting with the first agenda topic.

Frank has been talking with several groups interested in doing alpha build events including the LAPD wanting to serve another set of students in another housing project in Watts. The Watts event at the MTA was very successful and we discussed what went well and what could be improved.

We discussed getting a shared server for running RRS members to run applications related to rocketry. Frank and Chris are looking into options but haven’t found anything yet. Many of us use cloud services to store our files, but the RRS ought to discuss data storage options that can be better accessed by our membership. This topic is on-going.

The RRS history project continues. We received a set of RRS newsletters from Bill Claybaugh (thank you, Bill!). Richard Garcia continues to scan the newsletter stacks he has. We are still interested in getting reports, newsletters and anything else relevant to our history.

Bill Claybaugh was also kind to donate one of his 3-inch nozzles with a graphite insert to the society. In time, we will receive Bill’s propellant test rig which I look forward to examining and using at the MTA.

Bill Claybaugh’s three-inch nozzle

side view of three-inch nozzle with graphite throat

The RRS has made contact with our founder, George James, and some of the other early members of the society. We hope to schedule interviews and help to document as much of our history as we can in advance of the 75th anniversary symposium, April 14, 2018. The RRS is working on a list of our officers going back through the many years to the beginning starting with George James. We appreciate the help we’ve got so far, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

The next launch event at the MTA will likely be in the latter part of September. Some of the potential events with schools will be in October. There is significant interest in the RRS having a launch event for the several members interested in launching their own alphas. Many of our new members, Alastair, Bill, Angel and now Drew, have expressed interest in launching their own alphas. Myself and Larry will likely try to put something together as I continue to work on the parachute system for the alpha.

The council will update our membership once the next launch event at the MTA can be organized and set.

We had hoped to look at the footage from the keychain camera mounted to the fin on LAPD’s alpha rocket. The camera was recovered and the data was good, but Osvaldo did not have the opportunity to edit the footage. Alastair also had some video footage he took from the 7-22-2017 Watts launch event at the MTA, but he was still editing. We decided to push this item off to next month.

We discussed timer chips and other methods of switching on payloads right at launch. I brought my wood block breadboard and worked with Richard to resolve some issues with my circuit not firing. Osvaldo built a cotter-pin based spring-loaded switch that he mounted inside a segment of the alpha payload as an example. The society continues its efforts to learn more about what works with payloads and what doesn’t. I discussed my idea to attempt a flight speed sensor with a pair of barometric pressure sensing chips. Osvaldo said he’d drill a hole in the tip of an aluminum nosecone for the stagnation port.

We adjourned late at 9:22pm. In the future, we need to watch the time spent on each agenda topic. I would suggest we bring a simple battery-powered 6-inch wall clock into the meeting room so all people can more easily keep better track of time without pulling out their phones.

The topic of issuing membership cards and developing a better system of tracking dues collections was not addressed and will also be pushed to the next monthly meeting.

Our next meeting will be Friday, September 8, 2017.

If there is anything I missed or misstated, please let me know.
secretary@rrs.org

July 2017 meeting

The RRS held its monthly meeting last night on July 14, 2017 at our usual spot at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, CA. We got started a little late, but we covered all of our agenda items.

We have two new members, Drew Cortopassi and Alastair Martin, joining the RRS. Both were in attendance at the meeting and we were glad to have them join us.

***

Larry gave us an update on the RRS alpha build event we’re doing with the students of Jordan Downs in Watts. John Mariano gave his presentation last week and Larry has started the build event portion. This event has been sponsored by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Community Safety Partnership (CSP) which will be bringing a lot of talented kids from the inner city of Los Angeles. Local television crews filmed the event and the final day of painting of the student rockets is happening today. We hope to have the video spot on our YouTube channel very soon.

Jordan Downs build event with the RRS

LAPD CSP – About Us page

The students from Jordan Downs will launch 10 alpha rockets with one more alpha launched by LAPD. It will be a great day next Saturday, July 22nd, at the MTA.

Jordan Downs alpha rockets painted and ready

To any school or private group that would like to conduct a rocket build event with the RRS, please contact us at:
events@rrs.org

I will be launching an alpha of my own at the event with a PVC payload section. Our director of research, Richard Garcia, and RRS treasurer, Chris Lujan, were helping me with some payload issues I’m resolving.

Dave Crisalli has also been working with students at the Chaminade College Preparatory School in Chatsworth, CA. They have built a solid rocket motor to test at the MTA on the July 22nd event. Dave was a graduate of Chaminade and has been our pyro-op on many MTA launch events.

Chaminade College Preparatory School

Our discussion moved to the details of managing the upcoming launch event at our Mojave Test Area (MTA) on next Saturday, July 22nd. This is a private event, but we host these with many students, universities and private individuals with our membership.

We had discussed how the launches should be conducted as early as possible to avoid what will likely be an oppressively hot summer day for our young students. All of our invited attendees should make an extra effort to be at the MTA by 10:00AM, which means leaving the city before 7:00AM. There were also concerns related to safety once we get into launch mode. Once the safety briefing is conducted (likely around 11:00AM) and all people are moved into the observation bunker, the roads will be closed to traffic. No one will be allowed in or out until the last volley is fired as is our policy.

Attendees at the MTA are recommended to wear hats and sunscreen at all times. Bring as much ice and water as you can. And most importantly…drink this water and fluids as often as possible. Many people don’t know they have become dehydrated until after the ill-effects set in (then its too late). Drink often even if you don’t feel like it.

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I gave a short update on the SuperDosa project. We have decided to build a ballistic evaluation motor (BEM) to have the ability to conduct propellant evaluation tests. There are a few different approaches to getting accurate burn rate data, but I felt that the BEM approach would be the most beneficial despite the added complexity. Osvaldo has the plate and round stock I bought for this small but tough little test rig. Richard Garcia is working on the dust recovery and ducting to restart his graphite machining capabilities. I hope to get a few nozzle pucks made and hopefully begin testing this fall.

RRS ballistic evaluation motor design concept

More work in trajectory and performance modelling needs to be done. The details on the initial SuperDosa design are still a bit in flux. Neither Richard nor I had any progress to report on this front.

The discussion moved to propellant procurement. We are looking at acquiring some AP oxidizer which shouldn’t be a problem. The HTPB binder chemical, however, has really climbed up in cost. PBAN is another option we’re considering. Someone mentioned asphalt was used in the early days, but it’s not clear what the disadvantages are.

We had briefly discussed making rocket candy just for the initial samples to test and qualify the BEM test rig. It was decided that Chris Lujan would cook a small batch of sugar/KNO3 at the MTA and pour into some 3/4″ PVC sample cases. I hope to be able to document the process and present this in a report. This is a common mixture, but the purpose is to help more people become better at this task. Many of our members have experience in making the rocket candy mixture, but it helps to standardize the process and always watch out for safety issues.

MIT student, Sean Austin, was in attendance at the meeting. He had mentioned his university lab had built a strand-burner to test propellant samples. They had a lot of issues getting reliable test results, but he was happy to share their design with the RRS. A strand burner design is simpler to make and if the RRS has the right materials and tools, we may build a strand burner to supplement our BEM.

Richard Nakka’s rocketry page has a lot of great details on this subject of solid propellant burn rate testing methods and data collection.

strand burner
Nakka – strand burner test rig

ballistic evaluation motor
Nakka – BEM concept illustration

solid propellant, burn rate testing, in general
Nakka – burn rate testing in general

***

Four members from the UCLA IREC team came to present their results from this year’s competition at Spaceport America north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The rocket launch competition is supported by universities across the country and the event is managed by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA).
2017 IREC competition – Spaceport America

I had asked UCLA to come show us the fruits of their team’s hard work done at the RRS MTA. UCLA had some issues resolved, but ran into other problems at the launch site. Heat was a factor which resulted in the payload computers not working. A great deal was learned and UCLA will surely leverage these lessons into next year’s build.

UCLA presents IREC results to the RRS

UCLA presents IREC results to the RRS

The RRS would like to thank UCLA students, Nakul Gupta, Caleb Lessard, Edward Shen and Nick Knenning for presenting. The RRS looks forward to continuing our support of UCLA and other universities as they advance their rocket projects.

The UCLA Rocket Project will conduct more cold flow testing of their liquid rocket systems at the RRS MTA at the July 22nd event, but priority will be given to the student alpha launches to conduct the events as early in the day to avoid the hottest hours at the site.

Also, in attendance at the meeting was MIT student, Sam Austin. Sam is in Los Angeles this summer on an internship with Northrop Grumman. Sam was part of the MIT team at the IREC competition and related some of his team’s results. MIT did well taking 2nd place, but as always, there are new things to learn or things to do better. Sam had indicated interest in attending the upcoming launch at the MTA. We hope he’ll become a student member of the RRS to do so.

***

The RRS history project continues as our current membership has been reaching out to our founders and other members from the earliest days of the society. We hope to share some of this with our readers and members very soon. Frank had found another set of RRS newsletters from 1989-1991 which he gave to Richard Garcia, our director of research, for scanning and archiving.

As always, if anyone has any RRS or related literature that they would like to offer to be scanned for the society, please let Richard know:
research@rrs.org

***

I had presented the general topic of how to generate more revenue for the society. The RRS is funded by our membership in the form of dues, donated time to support events, monetary and material donations and such. I wanted to solicit ideas about how the RRS can pursue other avenues to bring in more funds to better support the programs we have and the new programs we hope to do soon.

One classic idea is to produce RRS-logo branded things like T-shirts, coffee cups, even metal rulers. I have seen older RRS branded items in the past and although the profit margins can be thin, it’s a fine fund-raising idea to consider. John Mariano had a few other ideas for fund-raising he brought up in a previous meeting this year.

The RRS is looking at grant programs both in the private sector and with government agencies. The RRS is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit group which has had success with several schools already and we intend to expand our outreach as we find schools and organizations able to help us bring the joy of rocketry. Donations from private companies and individuals is another avenue we’ll pursue. If anyone has any specific programs or ideas in mind, please contact the RRS vice president, Frank Miuccio.
vicepresident@rrs.org

One idea I had which was accepted was to publish an issue of the RRS Astrojet newsletter on our 75th anniversary on January 7, 2018. Although the RRS has not published a paper newsletter in quite some time, it was a popular item in its day. The newsletter would be the same 12 page format used throughout our history with articles from many of our members including George James, George Dosa and others as we bring this idea home. The 75th anniversary Astrojet newsletter will only be available in print and delivered by mail for a nominal price ($10?) to help fund the RRS’s growing activities.

Another idea put forth was to attempt the rocket mail flights done in the early days of the society. More thought and discussion would be necessary to see how feasible this would be, but I liked the idea?

The RRS may look to have some corporate sponsorship of the 75th anniversary symposium if this is possible.

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Frank made the announcement of the upcoming 75th anniversary RRS symposium on April 14, 2018. This will be a public event at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center where we will have speakers from universities, government agencies and private companies.

***

Frank also mentioned that he’ll be taking a trip to JPL with RRS founder, George James, later this month. Besides a tour, the RRS hopes to have a conversation with the K-12 education outreach coordinator at JPL on this visit. Frank will post an update on the website after this event.

***

We adjourned late, 9:20PM, well after the 9PM closing time, but we covered a lot. If there is anything I missed or misstated, please contact me at my RRS email below.
secretary@rrs.org

For those desiring to apply to join the RRS, either as full members or as student members, download our RRS membership application form from this website and send it to the RRS by email or our post office box in Los Angeles.
president@rrs.org

Reaction Research Society
P.O. Box 90933
Los Angeles, CA, 90009-0933

Our next meeting will be August 11, 2017, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center.

***

June 2017 meeting

The monthly meeting of the RRS was held June 9, 2017, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. The meeting was called to order at 7:45pm.

The launch event with UCLA was successful. We accomplished a lot with many different groups present. Again, we thank Dave Crisalli for being our pyro-op for the event. The RRS discussed the event and how we could manage these events in a more orderly fashion.

Several steps for improvement were discussed including tighter control of incoming vehicles and setting our operating procedure into written form for publication. In the future, the RRS should require all attendees to the MTA send their indemnification forms well in advance of the event so we know how many people we are expecting. Also, we need to use a full 10 second count instead of the 5 second count which will allow more time for the spotter to stop the launch if a problem is detected. An earlier draft of the RRS operational safety codes exists and was approved. The RRS secretary will circulate a new draft to the executive council before the next meeting on July 14th.

Minor facility improvements were discussed including how to mitigate the stifling heat at our desert site. Frank was willing to buy a water-fed misting fan that might help some people inside the Dosa building or perhaps inside the bunker. If the device works well, the RRS may consider buying a second unit to help create a small cooling space for those who are most affected by the heat.

I sat in my truck’s air conditioning a few times that afternoon as wearing the fireproof suit for the micrograin loading operations only added to my mounting heat exhaustion. Dave Crisalli had mentioned there are vests that hold flat ice packs that can be worn inside of protective suits. This will buy some time to work more comfortably under hot conditions.

Hydration, sunscreen and proper clothing for the desert heat are always important to all individuals to protect themselves both before and during the events held at the RRS MTA. The Mojave Desert is a tough place. It’s this attention to these details that are key parts of everyone having a successful event. As we do operate year-round through the hot months, there will always be this hazard to manage.

We reviewed the video shot from the launches. It has been suspected that the existing micrograin launch rails are a little too short resulting in the rockets leaving less than straight from the rails. We discussed newer longer rail launchers. It was decided to try to recover an old rail system that is already at the MTA as a backup.

Frank brought several old paper copies of the RRS newsletters. Some of these date back to the early 1950’s and others were from the 1960’s. The RRS is actively working to electronically archive as much of these newsletters as part of our on-going RRS history project.

RRS News, Issues 104 and 103

RRS News, Issues 98 and 101

Issue 101 mentions a story where the RRS was on the old Louis Lomax show which was a local semi-weekly news program in Los Angeles from 1964-1968. John Mariano and George Dosa were there and we hope to someday find the archival footage and post this to our YouTube channel. (I think it was Issue 101? Someone correct me if I am mistaken.)
Louis Lomax – Wikipedia

The RRS has in fact set the date for the upcoming 75th anniversary symposium which will be April 14, 2018. We will have it at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center as before. We have already begun the process of contacting speakers and exhibitors. We hope to make this event even better than this last year.

John Mariano brought his rocket on a string. This is a classic demonstration of the fundamental principle of propulsion using a CO2 cartridge guided on a plastic clothesline. The rocket was easily able to traverse the full length of the Ken Nakaoka Community Center ballroom, even uphill to the stage where Larry was holding the stop. Bill and I took video of the event and its on the RRS YouTube channel. Link is below:

CO2 rocket on a string

YouTube channel – RRS

After some false starts in getting the spring loaded puncturing device to work, we got it to work. Simple, but very fun! This demonstration of the fundamental principle of jet propulsion is a favorite in our educational events.

John Mariano gets ready with his rocket on a string

pool noodle segment, nose cone, plastic guide rods, CO2 cartridge, clothesline

Rocket on a string, Larry catches on the stage

The RRS is looking forward to doing an educational event with the students of Nickerson Projects in Watts. After the teaching sessions, the launch event is scheduled for July 22nd. Larry has an RRS standard alpha for the demonstration. The RRS is grateful to the LAPD CSP program for helping put this together.

RRS standard alpha for the Watts program in July 2017

We adjourned the meeting at 9:10pm. Next meeting will be July 14, 2017, just before the launch event with Nickerson Projects in Watts that next Saturday, July 22nd.

If there is anything I missed or mistated, please let me know.
secretary@rrs.org