Discovery Cube – Orange County

A few months ago (5/29/17) while driving through Orange County down the I-5, something caught my eye in what looked like the parking lot of a mall. An RL-10B-2 upper stage rocket is on permanent display adjacent to the Discovery Cube of Orange County! This massive item from a Delta III rocket is an amazing piece of American rocketry history and was donated by the Boeing Company facility at Huntington Beach, CA.

From the photo above, it seems the museum has used the payload fairing to advertise the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Second stage engine systems sign, outdoor RL-10 exhibit, Discovery Cube OC

The Discovery Cube is a group of museums open to the public (10am – 5pm) for children of all ages. They have three locations in Los Angeles, Newport Beach and Santa Ana (Orange County).

Discovery Cube Orange County

Discovery Cube, Orange County
2500 N. Main Street
Santa Ana, CA, 92705

The RL-10 series has one of the longest histories of rocket engines dating back to the 1960’s and is still in service over 50 years later. This trail-blazing design of a hydrogen-oxygen cryogenic upper stage uses an expander or topping type of engine cycle which is very efficient and useful for smaller upper stage engines, but very different from the more common gas-generator or staged combustion cycles used on first stage engines.

Expander or Topping Cycle engine cycle illustrated

This particular upper stage looks largely complete with propellant and pressurant tanks, valves, avionics boxes, steering rockets, payload fairing and of course the expander-cycle engine all mounted high above the street giving passersby a great view from below and afar. Also, the RL-10 has an extendable nozzle that is deployed after stage separation. The display has the long bell nozzle in the deployed position showing how it would look as it operates optimally in the thin upper atmosphere moving its payload to orbit.

The RL-10 is still being built by the Pratt & Whitney facility of West Palm Beach, FL (now under Aerojet-Rocketdyne).

Complete upper stage from the Delta III vehicle

A view of the RL-10 from below from behind the fence

The museum has also the Boeing Rocketry exhibit which is unfortunately still closed for renovation. From the photos on the museum webpage, they had an RS-68 engine on display which people could walk beneath to take a closer look. The RS-68 and RS-68A engines are still being made by Aerojet-Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, CA.

Once the rocketry exhibit is reopened, I plan to pay this museum a visit. I encourage our readers to do the same.

For questions, you can contact the Discovery Cube of Orange County
Discovery Cube Orange County

Update on RRS newsletter archiving

The large set of newsletters issues 60 through 100 that Frank gave me has been scanned and returned. They are about halfway through post-processing. Frank was then able to follow up with another large set of newsletters. This set covers his time as RRS president from 1989 through 1992. I am about two-thirds of the way done with that set. No progress yet on processing the cache of newsletters from Google Books.

Bill Claybaugh has generously donated his collection of 29 newsletters from the period between 1992 to 2001. Some have been archived already but many are new to being scanned including the one shown with a magnificent cover showing a night firing of a rocket on a static test stand. I’ll start scanning these after I finish scanning the last of Frank’s newsletters.

The Great American Eclipse

On Monday, August 21, 2017, nearly all of North America got a rare treat to observe a full solar eclipse as it passed from Oregon to South Carolina. Most people I know stayed in the Los Angeles area and observed the partial eclipse (almost 70%) while at work. Others took the day off and flocked up to Oregon to contend with the crowds. I took the opportunity to return to the Midwest to see my family and witness the full eclipse from the southeast corner of Nebraska as the eclipse made its path there just after 1 pm.

scattered storms throughout southeast Nebraska

Was it worth dodging scattered thunderstorms throughout the state and driving 5 hours with very low odds on having clear skies? Yes!

total solar eclipse, August 21, 2017; Beatrice, Nebraska

Fortune smiled on us as the clouds cleared (for the most part) at just the right moment. While many locations were destined to be disappointed by heavy cloud cover and rain, the city of Beatrice in Nebraska was blessed to have a clear enough view through thin high altitude clouds. A view clear enough for me to snap a few pictures using the solar eclipse glasses as a lens cover with my cell phone as the moon moved into totality.

Only during the moment of complete coverage (totality) was it safe to directly view the sun. Even under a partial eclipse, the sun WILL damage your eyes if viewed directly. To be safe, only eye-wear and filters that meets the ISO 12312-2:2015 specification requirements should be used.

just before totality, using the filter over the camera lens

While my photos of the corona were underwhelming, I did snap some photos around the area to show how rapidly the skies got a little dim and then DARK! To illustrate what it was like in the path of totality, In these four successive shots of the same street view where we stood, you see just how dark it suddenly gets in the penumbra. Our location was nearly ideal as we had nearly 2 minutes and 30 seconds under the total solar eclipse!

just before totality

same view, in the darkness of totality

coming out of darkness, the penumbra moves on

back to normal, eclipse has passed minutes later

I was glad to witness the event with my wife, Kathleen, and my nephew, Joseph. It’s these rare events that can make great memories as you do them with family and friends.

safely witnessing the eclipse

If you missed this grand event, Americans will have another chance almost seven years later on April 8, 2024. The NASA website is an excellent resource for eclipse viewing and future events.

NASA official website – Eclipse

If anyone else has photos or stories to share, please let me know on the forum.