Spaceport L.A. holds its Rocktoberfest event at Relativity Space

The Reaction Research Society (RRS) was very fortunate to attend an event sponsored by Spaceport L.A. This “Rocktoberfest” event held on November 15, 2018, was at the Relativity Space offices in Inglewood. This was a sold-out event with many people present from industry and the space-loving public.

A full house in attendance of the Spaceport L.A. panel session held at Relativity Space, 11-15-2018

Spaceport L.A. is an organization aiming to unite, build and support a space professional community in the thriving heart of Los Angeles. Through discussions, meetings and events held by Spaceport L.A., their aim is to propel further innovations and potentially foster breakthroughs to enhance space exploration. Members include technical professionals from all disciplines and other passionate individuals with the same aim to support the space community. The RRS naturally fits with these goals and we hope to have Spaceport L.A. participate at the 2019 RRS symposium at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena in April (exact date to be confirmed soon).

Spaceport L.A. – main website

The event brought a good crowd with people from Virgin Orbit, SpaceX, Phase Four, Aerospace Corporation and other professional organizations. The pork schnitzel offered from the food truck outside and the beer served at the event made for a fine supper before the panel discussion that was to take place.

Contrary to the hopes of many, Relativity did not offer a tour of their facilities at the event, but several members of Relativity were in attendance including former University of Southern California (USC) Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL) member and Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of Relativity, Jordan Noone. I had a chance to talk with Jordan and his new Director of Propulsion at Relativity, Nate Scholten.

Dave Nordling, Secretary, RRS, standing with Nate Scholten, Director of Propulsion at Relativity Space; in the background is the massive 3D printed aluminum upper stage tank prototype on display

Relativity is an orbital launch company founded in 2015 by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone that is taking a fundamentally new approach to building and flying rockets. With its customized and proprietary 3D printing technologies, they plan to iteratively build rockets at a cost and speed that better enables humanity’s visions in space.

Relativity Space

Also, in attendance at the event was Mike Kwapisz, Vice President of Engineering at Phase Four (P4). Phase Four is an El Segundo based start-up company making a new RF-based electrode-less, electromagnetic-based propulsion system. The “Maxwell” engine is designed for high reliability, long operating life and is modular for smaller low-power satellites to larger spacecraft systems.

The panel discussion had many fine speakers representing a wide swath of newer aerospace industries. Tim Buzza, former SpaceX manager and now a director at Relativity Space, gave a very insightful talk about his early days at SpaceX with the Falcon 1 and the trying times they had in bringing a new launch vehicle to the market.

Dr. Greg Autry, also on the panel, is a founding director of the Southern California Commercial Spaceflight Initiative at the USC Marshall School of Business. He offered many great insights about how the commercial space market has grown from once a purely speculative concept to an expanding and thriving industry in the United States and abroad.

Spaceport L.A. panel discussion, Marco Villa (Tyvak), Tim Buzza (Relativity Space), James Behmer (Phase Four) and Gene Autry (USC) with Curtis Iwata moderating.

James Behmer of Phase Four was also on the panel and shared a bit of their history in bringing a new modular propulsion technology into the growing small satellite market.

Lastly, Marco Villa, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, was on the panel sharing his insights from his previous days at SpaceX as the Director of Mission Operations. Dr. Villa also talked about how Irvine based, Tyvak is developing nano-satellites for the growing market. He also mentioned an interesting statistic that today there are over 100 companies world-wide that are endeavoring to offer access to space. In an age of consolidation, it is good to hear how the market is expanding in some respects.

Space[prt L.A.’s banner hangs below Relativity Space’s 3D printed aluminum upper stage tank on display

The panel discussion was fascinating and I hope Spaceport L.A. will sponsor another event soon. I am very thankful to Curtis Iwata and all of the volunteers at Spaceport L.A. for coordinating a great evening that fostered many great discussions with more to come in the future. I have left a link to the Spaceport L.A. website above and a few links below to the companies represented on the panel. Also, I am grateful to Relativity Space for opening their doors for this networking event through Spaceport L.A. It was a fascinating night.

Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc. – a Terran Orbital company

Relativity Space

Phase Four – advanced spacecraft propulsion

USC Marshall School of Business – Dr. Greg Autry

Please look for the next RRS event or just stop into one of our monthly meetings at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. Our next meeting will be Friday, December 14, 2018, at 7:30pm.

RRS visit to Additive Rocket Corporation

The Reaction Research Society (RRS) was glad to receive an invitation to an open house held by the Additive Rocket Corporation (ARC) in San Diego on November 13, 2018, which invited guests from academia and industry to have an exclusive look at the company’s business. The event was co-sponsored by the University of California San Diego (UCSD’s) Atkinson Hall Prototyping Laboratory. It was well worth the long drive through south-bound traffic from Los Angeles to arrive at UCSD by early evening.

Additive Rocket Corporation in San Diego, CA

Additive Rocket Corporation

The welcoming speech was given by Dr. Jeff Sundabrae showcasing the Atkinson Hall Prototyping Laboratory at UCSD and proud partnerships that they have cultivated.

Andy Kieatiwong, CEO of Additive Rocket Corporation, and Dave Nordling, Secretary, RRS

Andy Kieatiwong, CEO of ARC, gave the headline speech about his new company, founded in partnership with his friend and colleague, Kyle Adriany.

Kyle Adriany, CTO of Additive Rocket Corporation (ARC)

ARC uses a proprietary iterative design process that takes advantage of the freedom in design offered by additive manufacturing. ARC has developed their own software algorithms that can rapidly analyze and compare a wide range of design alternatives very quickly which ultimately leads to a few highly efficient designs that should enable a low cost, high performance rocket to be made.

ARC is a small start-up in San Diego. Several of their engineers and experts were in attendance at the event as ARC showed the audience their mission to produce high impulse, ultra-low cost additively manufactured engines. Many of the guests were fellow researchers at the Prototype Laboratory and UCSD. The most exciting part was getting a tour of the university laboratories and the shared space that ARC has with their EOS M290 large scale metallic 3D printer made by Electro Optical Systems (EOS). It is an amazing piece of technology to observe in action.

Electro Optical Systems (EOS), M290 industrial 3D metal printer

An uncooled thrust chamber prototype of a 125-lbf rocket motor, made by ARC’s 3D printing machine in Inconel 718

ARC has already built their first prototypes and is planning a series of hot fire testing of their “Nemesis” engine, hopefully at the RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA), in the very near future. With successful rounds of testing to anchor their design algorithms, ARC should be able to offer a powerful and elegant rocket at very competitive prices to a growing marketplace.

Additive Rocket Corporation’s “Nemesis” engine

I was glad to attend the event and greatly appreciate the hospitality of ARC and UCSD. Many found it very exciting to witness firsthand a remarkable material process that is slowly and surely changing the manufacturing marketplace.

The RRS is hopeful that ARC will attend and speak at our forthcoming 2019 RRS symposium in April. Stay tuned to our website for further updates from ARC and the 2019 RRS symposium at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena.

November 2018 meeting

The RRS held our monthly meeting on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. After coming to order and the reading of the treasury report, we discussed the agenda topics for this month. We were happy to be joined by new RRS member, Mike Albert.

[1]
Results of the RRS educational event at Weigand Elementary School with the LAPD CSP program was very positive. The launch event at the MTA had an excellent turnout, good demonstrations and ten alphas flown. We are becoming more effective in our execution at launch day, but there are still opportunities to improve the speed of operations while keeping our focus firmly on safety.

RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti, teaches the kids at Weigand Elementary School

The weather in late October was ideal and we were able to enjoy the low winds and cool weather. With the low winds, the impact of all alphas were able to be heard and the timing by the kids showed the flight times to be very consistent. Many thanks to Osvaldo and Michael Lunny for doing a great job in packing them for what looked to be very good results.

the kids of Weigand Elementary School at the RRS MTA on 10/27/2018

[2]
Frank is in the process of coordinating the next RRS educational event with LAPD to be a school affiliated with the Imperial Courts housing project which should begin in January 2019 sometime around the Martin Luther King holiday. The school will be announced soon once the details are finalized. The launch event will likely take place in March 2019.

Michael Lunny (back table); Mike Albert (left) and Frank Miuccio (right)

[3]
Results of Jack’s ballistic evaluation motor (BEM) testing were discussed. Jack and his team were not able to attend the meeting, likely due to the California wildfires in his area on that night. The testing rig had a few flaws and a missing part. It was unclear if any useful data came from the one test. Osvaldo is working with Jack on improvements to his BEM. A deeper discussion of Jack’s BEM will hopefully come at the next meeting.

Jack Oswald’s BEM tied to a stake in the dry lake bed for stability; undergoing preparations for 10/27/2018 testing

[4]
Results from the horizontal thrust stand testing were discussed. Despite the problems with the foundation slab sliding with the firing of the micrograin alpha rocket, the load cell did record data which partially confirmed the impulse bit measurements from the past. Many people enjoyed watching the footage, but in all seriousness, an appropriate mounting foundation needs to be made to continue tests.

Matteo Tarditti secures the load cell fixture to the horizontal thrust stand

One proposed solution was to keep the existing shallow slab and drive a long stake into the ground to restrain the slab from moving south as the nozzle exhaust points north when firing. Another solution is to dig away the soil at the site and pour a deeper, rebar reinforced slab with the same 1/2″-13 female anchors. Keeping the slab low near ground level will keep this simple small foundation from preventing road access around the old blockhouse.

example of a buried foundation slab for the horizontal thrust stand

[5]
The Additive Aerospace flyaway railguide was discussed. The device worked well with the micrograin alpha rocket. The fit was good and the camera footage from different angles showed the alpha in the railguide rode the full length of the rail flying very straight. The flyaway railguide did not survive its maiden voyage, most likely due to impact from the fall back to the ground. Also, there is a concern that using the micrograin rocket on the aluminum 8020 rail would eventually jam the rails with the zinc-suifide residue that coats the surfaces after each launch.

Flyaway railguide clamped around an RRS alpha

The recovered pieces of the flyaway rail guide. A successful launch but the mechanism didn’t survive the fall back to the ground

[6]
The RRS needs to finalize the 2019 symposium date very soon. Frank and others consulted the local calendars of relevant organizations and schools and we have arrived at two possible dates in April. The announcement for the 2019 RRS symposium will be made very soon as invitations and preparations must begin very soon.

Date to be announced soon, the RRS will hold the 2019 symposium at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena

[7]
We had a discussion of safety issues and propellant handling protocols during the meeting. The issue is complex and there are different opinions about what the RRS should require of our attendees and membership, but two points that were made clear is that safety is most important and that the RRS will seek to educate our membership about compliance with the applicable laws and best practices from our membership experience.

[8]
The RRS visit to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Chapter 96, at the Compton Airport on November 3rd was a success. RRS and EAA member, Xavier Marshall, gave Osvaldo and I a good tour of the hangar and their machine shop.

The EAA 96 hangar at the Compton Airport

Inside the EAA 96 hangar, door to the office

The EAA has several airplane projects in work including one by Wilbur Owens. We ate lunch at Wilbur’s hangar and talked about future projects at the RRS including the standard liquid rocket.

Relaxing after lunch in Wilbur’s hangar

Wilbur Owens and Osvaldo Tarditti discuss the RRS standard liquid rocket

The visit concluded with a tour of Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum and their rocket laboratory. We visited with some of the students who were working on their rocket project. The RRS was glad to see a lot of enthusiasm for the science we love.

Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum at the Compton Airport

The rocket lab inside Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum

The EAA membership is quite reasonable at $80/year. Members have access to the facilities at the hangar including the lathe, mill and metal shears useful for both aircraft and rocket structures. For those interested in joining the EAA, contact Xavier Marshall.

[9]
The next order of business was the nomination of officers for the next calendar year by our administrative membership in attendance. The first step was appointing of the election chairman which will be Larry Hoffing. The prior executive council members were nominated to their same posts.

Osvaldo Tarditti, President
Frank Miuccio, Vice President
Dave Nordling, Secretary
Chris Lujan, Treasurer

Larry will email our administrative membership for their votes in the coming weeks. Write-in candidates are allowed. The election ballots will be due a week prior to the next meeting. Results of the election will be announced at the December meeting to be held on Friday, the 14th.

[10]
The RRS may have another launch event at the MTA, but this is dependent on confirmation of the appropriate resources needed to support the event. This will likely take place as soon as next week, or possibly on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The RRS will post the formal announcement on the “Forum” of this website if the event becomes confirmed.

[X1]
Osvaldo was up in Rosamond and was able to take a short trip to the MTA to extract more of the rockets he could find with his ratcheting extractor tool.

A pile of alphas extracted from downrange at the MTA

In addition to the 15 alphas he was able to bring back for refurbished parts, he found the beta rocket that UCLA had launched.

UCLA’s beta rocket recovered from the desert floor

other parts of the beta rocket were able to be extracted including the beta coupler and a fragment of the red plastic nosecone

This beta rocket had an altimeter payload encased in a vented metal shell. Unfortunately, the Jolly Logic bluetooth solid-state device might have survived the crushing impact but the corrosion from possible rainwater intrusion after being planted in the desert dry lake bed sand for over a year proved to be fatal.

Payload case built into the beta rocket’s payload interior; note how the holes were crushed

Chris Lujan is inspecting the device, but it is very unlikely that any data will be recoverable from the chip. It is a shame as getting direct measurements of a beta flight would be great data to have. I guess we’ll have to try again?

Remains of the Jolly Logic altimeter chip, battery still attached

[X2]

At the end of the meeting, I gave a brief overview of a second design for the RRS standard liquid rocket. The system is smaller than Richard’s initial 1000-lbf design and will use ethanol/LOX as propellants similar to prior RRS designs. One of the key features is the custom-built aluminum tanks to be made from common piping sizes and head designs made from aluminum round stock on a lathe. In the last few minutes, I was only able to provide a cursory outline of the project which will be discussed in further details at subsequent meetings. I have identified a few of the key parts including high pressure solenoid valves, aluminum tubing, AN fittings and a common composite overwrapped pressurant vessel commonly used in paintball sports.

simple schematic of a blowdown rocket system, three tank arrangement

[IN CLOSING}

Wilbur and Xavier mentioned that the EAA is open to having the RRS use their office for one of our monthly meetings in the future. Given how close the Compton Airport is to the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, this is quite practical. The RRS will make the announcement soon if one of our meetings in early 2019 will be at the EAA 96 hangar.

If there is anything here that needs correcting, please contact the RRS secretary.
The next RRS meeting will be Friday, December 14th, 2018.