August 2020 virtual meeting

By Dave Nordling, Reaction Research Society


In the absence of our secretary, I took a few notes from the meeting. This is what I recorded. Contact the RRS secretary for updates and corrections.

The Reaction Research Society held its monthly meeting by teleconference on August 14, 2020. Our monthly meetings are always held on the 2nd Friday of every month. We’ve had a lot of success with holding our meetings remotely and we will likely continue for the next coming months to continue our commitment to safety in light of the pandemic. Our membership is in regular contact with our community which has allowed us to promote and hold events including our first launch at the Mojave Test Area (MTA) on July 25, 2020. You can read the details in the firing report posted on this website.

Our members are doing well and thus far no one has reported being infected with COVID-19 which we hope continues to be the case. Frank is in regular contact with the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Community Safety Partnership (CSP) but under current circumstances, the next school event may not be until next year. Options are being considered on how to continue our educational programs while maintaining social distancing.

The August 2020 RRS meeting held by teleconference.

REVIEW OF THE 7/25/2020 LAUNCH EVENT OPERATIONS

The first topic was the recent launch event we held on July 25th at the Mojave Test Area for the first time since the start of the pandemic. We had some difficulties in operating under the summer heat (106 Fahenheit at the peak) but this is nothing unusual for this time of year. Many of us were well prepared for the hot sun with our hats, sunscreen and iced beverages and chilled water. We also did a good job of watching out for each other. Still, the heat was responsible for leaving all but one of the micrograin rockets downrange. It also underscores the importance good planning, coordination and putting safety over all other considerations. We had several mis-fires which we were able to resolve, but maintaining discipline during the event proved to be a larger challenge. The launch protocols will be explained more thoroughly in the next safety briefing. The meeting highlighted that every member and pyro-op attending the event holds a joint responsibilty for the safety of all and it starts with self-discipline and patience by all.

Getting the beta rocket ready in the launcher on 7/25/2020 and setting the camera

We also discussed proper protocols such as announcing the pyro-op in charge well before the event and the necessity of providing detailed information about the intended operations to the pyro-op in charge in advance. Most of the planned projects were well understood as they were micrograin rockets and the previous hybrid rocket attempted at the last launch event.

DATA REVIEW OF THE STANDARD ALPHA FLIGHT OF 7/25/2020

The only micrograin rocket to be recovered from the launch event of 7/25/2020 was the standard alpha with plain steel nozzle. John Krell has been developing progressively better and more powerful avionics payloads designed to fit the narrow confines of the RRS standard alpha payload tube. John was able to spot and recover one of his payloads and process the flight data captured that day. The avionics payload was intact after being extracted from the desert floor including the solid-state data chip. John was able to recover the data and accurately reveal the huge acceleration of the RRS standard alpha with unprecedented accuracy. A peak acceleration of 114 G’s was recorded at roughly 0.3 seconds just before tail-off and burn-out at 0.4 seconds from launch. I was able to screen capture his plot below.

John Krell’s presentation of the data from the one recovered alpha ( to date).

The second plot shows the velocity derived from the accelerometer readings in the half-second which captures burnout at 0.4 seconds. Burnout velocity was measured at 670 feet/second which is consistent with prior data and trajectory predictions. The alpha is subsonic but travels at substantial speed from the swift acceleration. Given the high air temperature that day, 106 Fahrenheit, the speed of sound was 1165 ft/sec. The altitude of burnout was determined to be 130 feet which is consistent with prior flight data and high speed video footage.

Trajectory plot of the standard alpha flight from 7/25/2020

The third plot was made for the whole flight of standard alpha from the 7/25/2020 event from launch to impact at 35 seconds. Given the roets were impacting 2000 to 3000 feet downrange, the sound delay matches with the time to impact witnessed in the observation bunker. The maximum altitude was just over 4,400 feet based on the barometric pressure measurements using the 1976 standard atmosphere model. Base atmospheric pressure reading at the start of the flight shows the elevation of alpha launch rail platform is 2,048 feet.

Trajectory of the standard alpha flown on 7/25/2020

John Krell has really accomplished something with these custom avionics packages. He has been mentoring some of our other RRS members and the society encourages other members to build and fly their own payloads to spread the knowledge.

John Krell and Bill Behenna discuss avionics payloads

The society hopes to recover the other two alphas and the beta for further data analysis. Both of the unrecovered alphas from this last launch event had ceramic coated nozzles which should not erode. This should result in a more ideal performance as the throat area will not open up. The actual effect of this design improvement can best be assessed with recorded flight data. Also, we hope to compare the trajectory of the four-foot propellant tube with the standard length. Lastly. if the beta is recovered with recorded flight data, we may be able to assess its performance in unprecedented detail. The society hopes to report this flight data soon.

IMPROVEMENTS TO THE NITROUS OXIDE FILL/DRAIN MANIFOLD

The failure to launch the second build of the hybrid rocket was discussed at the August 2020 meeting. After discussing the launch procedures and corrective actions followed during the attempt to launch the nitrous oxide hybrid at the MTA with Osvaldo (the Level 1 pyro-op in charge) and racing experts at Nitrous Supply Inc., Huntington Beach, California, the cause of the fill valve’s failure to open became clear.

nitroussupply.com

In the racing industry, these normally-closed direct-acting solenoid valves are commonly used to open the flow of stored nitrous oxide bottles against the full supply pressure in the storage bottle. These are called “purge solenoid valves” among racers because it is this solenoid valve that opens the flow of nitrous oxide which displaces or purges out the air in the engine lines during the race. Buying these 12-volt DC high pressure solenoid valves from racing suppliers is much cheaper given they are made in greater numbers for the racing industry. (~$120 each versus $400+ each from reputable solenoid valve manufacturers).

In researching common designs for normally closed (NC) solenoid valves, the excessive heat of that day simply created too much inlet pressure against the internal valve seat for the electromagnetic solenoid coil to overcome and open the flow path. 1000 psig is likely the limit to reliably open these valves according to advice given by Nitrous Supply Inc. who has decades of practical experience at racing tracks around the country using purge solenoid valves for an application nearly identical to the needs of hybrid rocketry fill and drain operations. The ambient temperature at the MTA on launch day was creating a bottle temperature of 1400 psig accordling to the bottle pressure gauge and the separate pressure gauge in the manifold when the bottle was opened. This is well above the 900 psi recommended pressure range seen by marking on the gauge. The bottle, valve body and fittings are rated for these higher pressures, but opening mechanism of the solenoid valve was not.

A color-coded example of direct-acting normally closed solenoid valve is below. Blue shows the high pressure fluid path which is holding the seat down along with some assistance from an internal spring only for low inlet pressure conditions. With current applied to the electromagnetic solenoid (Orange), it pulls up on the moving armature (in red) which then allows the fluid to slip past the seal and through the flow control orifice when commanded open. Only a slight amount of movement is necessary to lift open the valve. However, if the fluid inlet pressure is too great, the solenoid can not provide enough force to lift and open the seal, therefore the valve stays shut.

Example of a direct-acting normally closed (NC) solenoid valve courtesy of M & M International (UK) Limited with color added to distinguish key parts.

To understand the relationship between pressure and temperature of the nitrous oxide you must consult the vapor pressure curve for nitrous oxide. This set of data points spans between the triple point and critical point of any pure fluid. NIST provides accurate data to generate such a curve.

webbook.nist.gov

nitrous oxide (N2O) liquid state properties, HTML5 table output from Web-book NIST.gov website
Nitrous oxide (N2O) vapor phase properties, HTML5 table output from Web-book NIST.gov website

The critical point of any pure fluid is where the distinction between gas and liquid phases disappears. This is not necessarily hazardous but it does mark a fundamental change in fluid behavior. The critical point of nitrous oxide (N2O) is 1053.3 psia and 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit according to Air Products company literature. This means the nitrous oxide conditions in the bottle at the launch (1400 psig as read on the gauges with an fluid temperature of 106 Fahrenheit or more) was well in the supercritical range, but again, this is only hazardous if the pressure vessels and plumbing connections aren’t able to safely contain the pressure. If the solenoid valve could have been opened, the pressure drop would have returned the supercritical fluid back to normal conitions and would flow dense liquid into the rocket when the fluid naturally chills down from the expansion.

Both the bottle pressure gauge and the manifold pressure gauge read excessively high on that hot summer day.

Keeping the bottle pressure below 1000 psia means controlling the external temperature of the bottle to a lower temperature. Below is a tabulation of state points along the vapor pressure curve for nitrous oxide (N2O) for common ambient temperatures. You can see that small shifts in ambient temperature can greatly affect the vapor pressure of the pressurized liquid. Keeping nitrous oxide under pressure is the key to retaining its denser liquid state. As long as the tank pressure is above the vapor pressure at that fluid temperature, you will have a liquid phase in the tank. If the pressure on the fluid drops below the vapor pressure, the liquid will begin to boil away.

  • 30 F, 440.05 psia
  • 40 F, 506.63 psia
  • 50 F, 580.33 psia
  • 60 F, 661.71 psia
  • 70 F, 751.46 psia; liquid density 48.21 lbm/ft3, vapor density 0.1145 lbm/ft3
  • 80 F, 850.46 psia
  • 90 F, 960.09 psia
  • 97.6 F, 1053.3 psia; density 28.22 lbm/ft3, CRITICAL POINT
  • Molecular weight = 44.01 lbm/lb-mol
Vapor curve for nitrous oxide over ambient temperature ranges

At first, it was thought that there wasn’t sufficient current from the lawnmower lead-acid battery we use. The summer heat can cause batteries to fail, but even after switching to a car battery, the failure to open was the same. Having a 12-volt solenoid requires greater current to actuate the solenoid valve, but it is a common standard for automotive grade parts which can be less expensive yet reliable. A current draw of 15 Amps over the long cable runs of a few hundred feet can be taxing to the firing circuit battery. This was not the cause of the problem, but it is a regular concern making sure sufficient voltage and current is available to both ignition and valve control.

To exclude outright failure of the solenoid valve, Osvaldo brought the unit home, allowed it to cool to room temperature then dry-cycled the valve from a battery to see if it still actuated. This simple test was successful and the filling valve in our nitrous oxide manifold continues to operate. At the next launch attempt, we will be prepared to chill the nitrous oxide supply bottle with an ice bath if necessary as was originally suggested at the prior launch event. Keeping the bottle pressure in an appropriate pressure range for fill operations is dependent on controlling the fluid temperature (60 to 90 F) under extreme heat or cold environments.

In researching purge solenoid valves, a second 12 VDC normally-closed valve was found and purchased. Nitrous Supply Inc., was out of purge solenoid valves but offered many alternative suppliers in the Los Angeles area. After some searching, I selected a high flow purge solenoid valve sold by Motorcycle Performance Specialties (MPS) Racing in Casselbury, Florida, for the purge solenoid valve used for venting our nitrous oxide manifold. The control panel is already equipped with the second command channel to open the vent from the blockhouse should it be necessary in launch operations. A schematic illustration is provided in this article.

mpsracing.com

Normally-closed 12 VDC purge solenoid valve from MPS Racing in Florida used for nitrous oxide applications including car and motorcycle racing.

The previous drain solenoid valve equipped with the nitrous manifold I bought was not deisgned for the full bottle pressure in the manifold so it quickly failed during initial checkouts. A manual valve was used in its place to carefully bleed out the remaining pressure in the line after the main bottle valve was tightly closed. This second solenoid valve will be used for draining the nitrous in the event of a launch scrub. Although the Contrails hybrid motor already has a small orifice and vent tube at the head end of the nitrous tank to provide slow release of pressure buildup, it is better to have a remote option to quickly depressurize the vehicle if the need arises.

Fill, drain and firing circuit for a Contrails hybrid rocket motor

With some re-plumbing of the nitrous oxide manifold to include the new vent solenoid, a soap-bubble leak check would be needed to prove the system before use. Given the significant overhanging weight of two solenoid valves, it may be wise to mount both valves on a separate plate structure to avoid excessive bending loads on the bottle connection. Design changes like this will be considered in preparation for the next launch event.

PYROTECHNIC OPERATOR TRAINING SESSION BY FRIENDS OF AMATEUR ROCKETRY

Mark Holthaus of the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) organization is offering an online training session for those interested in becoming licensed pyrotechnic operators in the state of California. The event requires registration on the FAR website and a fee paid to FAR ($10) to attend this two-hour introduction to the licensing and application process to be held on August 26th.

Friends of Amateur Rocketry website for indicating interest in pyro-op classes

Amateur rocketry in California is controlled by the same laws governing fireworks which require licensing by a state exam. The application forms and guidelines are available through the Office of the State Fire Marshal in the state of California (CALFIRE).

https://osfm.fire.ca.gov/divisions/fire-engineering-and-investigations/fireworks/

This training course for pyro-op applicants is another example of FAR and the RRS partnering to help the cause of amateur rocketry. The RRS, FAR and Rocketry Organization of California (ROC) last year met to create a joint set of recommendations to help CALFIRE improve the definitions used to govern amateur rocketry when CALFIRE they were seeking input from rocketry organizations. It is to the mutual benefit of the whole rocketry community and the public that there be more licensed pyro-op’s in amateur rocketry to both increase awareness of state laws and improve the culture of safety in our hobby and professions.

This FAR training course only serves to provide applicants with basic guidance on how to begin the application process and prepare to take the examination. Members of FAR, the RRS, ROC and any other amateur or model rocketry organization are welcome to apply. Several members of the RRS have already applied as the society continues its campaign to grow our ranks of licensed pyro-op’s at all three levels.

Completion of this training course does not substitute for any part of the pyro-op application process set by CALFIRE. As each applicant is required to pay their own fees including fingerprinting, they must also provide five letters of recommendation from licensed pyro-ops at or above the level of license being sought. After this class, each applicant must formally request these letters from state licensed pyro-ops in writing. For a licensed pyro-op to offer a letter of recommendation to an applicant, they must be willing to endorse their skills, knowledge and character to the state of California based on their personal experience with that individual. This is done through active participation at launch events through rocketry organizations having licensed pyro-ops leading their operations. Apprenticing, studying and attentiveness are all ways that a pyro-op can get to know an applicant personally and thus build confidence that the applicant is ready to have the responsibility of being licensed in rocketry. A letter of recommendation is given solely at the discretion of the licensed pyro-op which means their standards and expectations may vary significantly from others. It is important to establish a working relationship with both the society and the specific pyrotechnic operator over several projects to demonstrate skills and learn best practices through active participation.

As the RRS has more licensed pyro-ops than FAR at this time, this training course will be successful if both organizations support it. Some of the RRS pyro-ops have already offered their support as this means more people will need to become active with the RRS and conduct their projects at the MTA.

ROCKET LABORATORY AT THE COMPTON AIRPORT

Keith Yoerg announced that there is a tentative plan to create a rocket laboratory in a hangar at the Compton Airport, Although, the hangar will be used from time to time to store or service light aircraft, there is a great deal of working space which will help the RRS continue their liquid rocket project already underway. Several members of the RRS are also active with civil aviation and are members of Chapter 96 of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA 96). The EAA has generously supported the RRS over the last two years and we hope to continue and expand this partnership.

NEXT EVENT AT THE MOJAVE TEST AREA

The RRS has been planning the next event at the Mojave Test Area which will be dedicated to repairing some of our facilities including the adjustable rail launcher damaged in solid rocket launch explosion in August 2019. The consensus at the meeting was that we should not to return to the MTA for a formal launch event until the seasonal temperatures decrease from the excruciating desert summer. October 3rd was selected for this work event, Our hope is the weather will be cooler and we can accomplish more on that day. We may also take some time to search for more rockets planted downrange from past launch events.

The RRS may also conduct a few static firings or even a launch if member projects are ready. All such proposed hot-fire and launch activities must be proposed to the RRS president and the selected pyro-op in charge for that day. Some of our member projects such as Wolfram Blume’s Gas Guzzler two-stage ramjet and my second-build of the high-powered hybrid rocket are both still works in progress and may be ready for the early October launch date. Larry Hoffing has been working on an improved solid motor chemistry which he may want to test at the MTA.

The RRS is available for private events before that time, but one must make their request to the RRS president as usual. Some have indicated interest in returning to the site for just a few hours to recover more rockets downrange. Its our policy that at least two members be present for any excursions to the MTA and the RRS president must be notified in advance.

IN CLOSING

Some topics were not able to be covered including the overview of the new RRS Constitution as it gets ready for administrative membership review. Also, facility improvement plans at the RRS MTA including new restroom facilities and blockhouse should be discussed.

The next RRS meeting will be held by teleconference on September 11, 2020 as it is unlikely we will be permitted to return to the Ken Nakaoka Community Center by then. We hope everyone continues to stay safe during these days of the pandemic and try to stay in touch as we are planning another event at the MTA for October 3, 2020.

If there are any questions, please contact the RRS secretary.

secretary@rrs.org


August 2019 meeting

by Dave Nordling, Secretary, RRS


The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held its monthly meeting on Friday, August 9, 2019, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. We were glad to welcome a new member to the society, Drew Sherman. Frank mentioned that the latest educational event with LAPD CSP was going well and that we can expect the next launch event to take place on Saturday, September 21st.

Drew and Arthur Cortopassi attend the August 2019 meeting of the RRS

We began our meeting with the call to order and reading of the treasury report. This August meeting would try to catch up on topics intended for past meetings.

[1] MTA launch events since the last meeting

The first topic on the agenda was discussion of the recent launch events held at the MTA since our last meeting. The RRS hosted Operation Progress at the MTA on July 13th. The launch report for this last event with the LAPD CSP program has already been posted.

UCLA held its second of two high school rocket launch events at the RRS MTA on July 31st. This was supported by Osvaldo Tarditti and Larry Hoffing as the six teams flew and recovered egg payloads using model rockets with “G” sized commercial motors. The event was a great benefit to the young participants and a welcome change of pace as the RRS welcomes model rocketry and amateur rocketry alike.

UCLA supports high school rocketry, the RRS was glad to host two events at the MTA in July 2019.

RRS members, Jack Oswald and Cooper Eastwood, had a launch event at the RRS MTA on August 3rd, delayed 2 weeks from the original July 20th date. The “50 for 50” rocket was built to reach 50,000 feet on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Jack’s large solid motor was impressive as he and his family worked hard at the event to get his rocket ready for flight.

Jack’s mom carefully folds and stows the streamer payload which would be the first deployment after the booster reaches apogee somewhere near 50,000 feet. The Oswald family was a big part of making this flight possible and the vehicle integration went quite smoothly even in the August summer heat of the Mojave Desert.

A last minute inclusion was a radio tracking package made by Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) member, Joe Conway. Joe was kind enough to allow his tracker to fly in Jack’s rocket as his device was not operational. Our fellow amateur rocketry enthusiasts at FAR came over to assist in the launch and the RRS was glad to have their participation.

Jack’s rocket weighed in at over 82 lbs with 30 lbs of AP composite propellant in four Bates grains within his booster. With a team of four to six people, the booster and instrumented payload section were assembled and loaded into the rails.

Cooper Eastwood, Jack Oswald and Prof. Barsoum Kasparian (holding the booster igniter) inside the George Dosa building at the RRS MTA

Unfortunately, the “50 for 50” rocket flight was a failure and the booster exploded shortly after ignition. Based on the film footage, ignition of the motor was achieved and the rocket lifted about two to three feet within the rail before an over-pressure event ruptured the booster and destroyed a great deal of the launch rails. No one was injured in the firing, but there was a large amount of clean-up to be done. We were very thankful to all of our attendees for their attention to safety and assistance in carefully gathering for disposal of the unburned propellant scattered from the violent end of this rocket.

The 50 for 50 rocket just after ignition and lift-off. This is the last frame before the booster disappears into a cloud of debris and smoke shattering the launch rails into a twisted mess.

Given the extensive damage to the rails, refurbishment will be costly. The RRS is already assessing plans to replace the necessary parts to restore this large adjustable rail launcher very soon.

Initial frame taken from the observation bunker as the “50 for 50” booster shatters in the rails throwing the payload upward with the streamer and parachute coming out

Jack is preparing a report of his entire build processes and some theories regarding what happened and what could be done better. This report will be submitted to our membership, but Jack will be unable to present his findings in person as he will be leaving for his freshman year at MIT. Even in failure, it’s important to keep good records. The RRS is a scientific society which insists on good record-keeping and sharing knowledge to make each project better than the last.

It was an amazing effort by a group so young. They had great support from many people and sponsoring organizations who donated money and resources to completing their rocket for this test. The RRS was proud to help our members achieve a great learning experience and in time, try again.

John Newman of FAR standing next to the damaged rail launcher examines an unburned grain fragment from the “50 for 50” booster.

Going back to the MTA launch event of July 13, Brian Johnson was able to present a summary of Kent Schwitkis’ trajectory analysis of the Compton Comet alpha rocket flown that day at the MTA event for Operation Progress and LAPD CSP. Kent did a thorough analysis of the optically measured positions of the alpha as it left the rails within the view of the footage taken. Using the video footage taken of their alpha fired from the RRS MTA box rail, careful scale measurement of key landmarks in the background, the software program can make reasonable estimates of the position, velocity and acceleration of the rocket as it is seen and timed frame by frame in the video.

Brian Johnson goes over the trajectory analysis based on video footage of the July 13 flight of the Compton alpha rocket. Kent Schwitkis performed this analysis using a physics software package which provided reasonably good results given the number of potential difficulties in using an optical measurement approach.
The trajectory data plotted in Excel showed a clean acceleration pattern which matched expectations from past testing of the alpha.

The optical measurement approach provided some direct confirmation about the starting acceleration (95 G’s) and burnout speed (200 m/sec) of the RRS standard alpha flown that day. Kent Schwitkis’ method has great potential. The best course of action would be to conduct further tests of this kind to get a larger data set to confirm the statistical accuracy and variation between similar alpha rockets flown. The society will have this opportunity at the next event planned for September 21st.

[2] RRS standard liquid and the TAM project

Richard Garcia, our director of research, has created a prototype design for a simple liquid rocket that after some initial trial and error could become a standard project at the RRS much like the alpha and beta have become for micrograin solid propellant. Richard has created a materials list and the society is in the process of acquiring the necessary items and will begin construction of the initial prototype. For now, it is too early to say what this standard design will look like, but as many past members have built their own liquid rockets over the years, the RRS can draw upon a sizable base of past knowledge to create a modest liquid rocket that is both powerful and practical for future members to try.

I have been working with a small group at the Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM) at the Compton Airport. This project has a simple goal of creating a ground testing system to hot-fire a surplus LR-101 vernier motor. TAM has acquired a few of these kerosene and liquid oxygen LR-101 motors which have internal cooling passages and are made for long duration firings. Although the engine is already made, building the necessary regulated pressurization system and valves will be the primary challenge. This work can easily benefit other liquid rocket projects.

[3] RRS social media improvements

This is a regular agenda topic to be discussed at each meeting with the goal of finding ways to improve our presence in social media platforms and on the internet in general. Bill and Alastair, our two media coordinators, were both absent at this meeting so this topic will return next month as planned.

We’ve had a few new posts on our Instagram feed with recent events. Bill Behenna recommended that on flyers for future RRS events, the addition of a QR code to link back to our official webpage or other important information is something we should do.

[4] Pyrotechnic operating licensing at the RRS

The RRS has been working with CALFIRE on having more of our membership becoming licensed pyrotechnic operators to better enhance our operations and foster amateur rocketry in general. Osvaldo Tarditti, Larry Hoffing and myself have all been working through the licensing process. We encourage more of our membership to spend the time to prepare their applications and gather letters of recommendation necessary to begin the process. This will be a slow process, but as more pyro-op’s at the RRS become available, more able our society will be to hold events and support other rocketry groups in their projects.

[5] New RRS alpha payloads

The RRS holds many launch events throughout the year with Los Angeles area schools thanks to our partnership with the LAPD CSP. These events have from six to twelve alpha rockets flown from the RRS MTA at the conclusion of each program but they have empty payload tubes. This represents a great opportunity to fly more payloads.

John Krell has been working on an instrumentation package that can record high accelerations, barometric pressure and capture high speed data all in a compact package that fits in the tiny confines of an RRS standard alpha rocket. There are many commercially available instrumentation packages for model rockets which have larger plastic bodies Given the smaller internal diameter of an RRS standard alpha rocket, many of these great devices simply do not fit. John’s design seeks to make use of the latest instrumentation chips all in a long thin compact package ready for use in the RRS alpha. With luck, his device should be ready for flight at the next RRS MTA launch on September 21, 2019.

John Krell shows his latest breadboard model of his alpha instrumentation package.

SImilarly, Brian Johnson, in partnership with Kent Schwitkis and Compton College, has been working on an instrumentation payload of their own design for the RRS standard alpha. The first flight of his payload on July 13, 2019, was not successful as it failed to start recording. Brian has worked to improve the design, but the fundamental principles were sound. A second flight of this design at our next launch event at the MTA on September 21, 2019, should prove to be successful.

Brian Johnson’s alpha payload designed to fit inside the aluminum nosecone of an RRS standard alpha.

[6] Discussion of the next RRS symposium

The RRS opened discussion about the possibility of holding another symposium in the next calendar year, 2020. Previously, the society had decided not to hold another symposium after 2019 until two years later for both reasons of cost and resources necessary to conduct the event. While the society has not formally decided whether or not to have a 2020 RRS Symposium, the executive council did decide to study the matter further based on continued success and enthusiasm by past attending organizations.

The RRS will make a decision on this matter before the next meeting. If the RRS does decide to proceed, we must begin preparations in the latter part of the year to allow sufficient time to contact participants giving them time to prepare for a symposium in the spring as was done since our 2017 RRS symposium. Further, full engagement of our membership will be critical to keep this string of successes going strong.

IN CLOSING

As the meeting adjourned, RRS member, Mohammed Daya showed us the two model rocket bodies he purchased at a Northrop-Grumman swap meet recently. These were built by a retired rocketeer who wanted his hobby to go to another enthusiast.

Mohammed Daya shows Osvaldo Tarditti and Wilbur Owens the two model rocket bodies he bought at a swap meet. F and G type commercial motors look to be the right size.

As these two rockets only need some minor repairs and suitably sized commercial motors to be installed, we hope Mohammed will be able to launch them from the MTA on September 21.


The RRS will hold our next meeting on September 13, 2019. We plan on discussing three very important subjects:

(1) RRS MTA facility improvement plans including a new restroom facility, a new blockhouse and replacement of the large box rails damaged in the August 3, 2019, launch attempt.

(2) Discuss the initial draft of the updated Constitution as presented to our attending membership by the 2020 RRS Constitutional Committee.

(3) RRS decision on the next symposium.


If there are any questions, please contact the RRS secretary.

secretary@rrs.org

May 2019 meeting

Dave Nordling, Secretary, RRS.ORG


The RRS met for our monthly meeting on Friday, May 10, 2019, at 7:30pm at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, CA. We were not as well attended this month, but we did have three new people join us at the meeting. With Mother’s Day weekend and graduation ceremonies happening at this time of year, many had other commitments.

The RRS welcomed David Minar and John Krell to the May 2019 meeting.

I must admit my error this week. I did realize too late that my monthly email to announce the meeting was not sent this week. Typically, I do send an email reminder to our active membership list (or anyone else who wants to know) on the Monday before meeting which also contains a copy of the agenda. Next month, I will not forget as this unintended experiment has shown that our reminder emails can be valuable to our membership.

The RRS has our monthly meetings always at 7:30pm on the 2nd Friday of each month. I usually mark my whole calendar each year with all of the 2nd Fridays to avoid schedule conflicts, but this is only a suggestion. Our meeting location is at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, unless otherwise announced in advance.

Also, in about the week prior to the meeting around the first of the month, I will gather up the agenda topics expected for the next month and post . All members are welcome to send their suggestions and ideas for agenda topics. We especially want short topics (5 minutes) on things related to rocketry, chemistry, payloads or just any kind of project you’re working on. The society is about sharing knowledge. Send an email to the RRS secretary or any of the executive council and we can put it on the agenda. Some of our members who aren’t in town have submitted things to be presented at meetings in the past which is also something the society can share in our meeting if the materials are clear enough and sent well in advance.

After calling the meeting to order and the reading of the treasury report, we began our agenda for May and covered most of the topics leaving some for June 14, 2019.

Waldo Stakes (left reclining) and new RRS member, Kent Schwitkis, a professor at Compton College. Kent joined us at the 2019 RRS symposium and we bid him welcome at the May 2019 meeting.

(1) Discussion of the 2019 RRS Symposium

The 2019 RRS Space & Rocketry Symposium held on Saturday, April 27th, was a success. We had a few different presenters this year in our lineup, welcomed a few new exhibitors and were very well attended over most of the day. According to Frank, we broke last year’s attendance by a small margin. RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti, was very pleased with the amount of support we got from our membership in the night before and early morning of the symposium. Also, the RRS was very glad to have support we did at the end of the symposium in tearing down and cleaning up at the close of the day. These often overlooked simple details make running the symposium a real pleasure even at the end of a long day.

Frank Miuccio, RRS Vice President and Symposium Coordinator. The RRS thanks to Frank for all of his hard work in bringing together many people and many things to make this 2019 symposium another success.

We had our first opportunity to discuss the positive things at the symposium at the May meeting and this took up most of our meeting time. We were very happy to see so many groups come out including Spaceport LA, ROC and two organizations within the US Air Force (SMC at LA AFB and AFRL from Edwards AFB). The food truck vendor was also a great success. Many people enjoyed the pleasant weather and good food we had on site at lunch time. The outdoor exhibits were also a big hit. We are also thankful to LAPD CSP and the Los Angeles county sheriff’s department. The society will take notes to help with improving and expanding our next symposium still in planning for April 2021.

Some things that could have been better was sound quality. It was generally agreed that better speaker placement and the cloth barriers behind our audience rows was not sufficient to dampen out the noise from several running exhibits and the general foot traffic. It was my suggestion that we return to the 2017 format of having our presentations in the separate meeting room in the back and keep our exhibitors in the ballroom and at the main entrance.

We have also discovered that our exhibition seems to do well starting first thing in the morning and lasting until mid-afternoon. However, our audience attendance for our speakers tended to be better starting in the late morning and lasting all the way to the end of the day. The RRS is considering having fewer presenters but keeping the duration and range of content the same. Our audience seems to enjoy the topics that our speakers have been offering, so we will continue in this direction. The RRS will likely discuss more of our member and attendee impressions of the symposium at the next meeting on June 14, 2019.

(2) Terry Price’s presentation on composite materials used in rocketry – delayed to next month

Terry was unable to attend the May meeting, however, he did say that he could join us next month. Terry gave a great hour and a half presentation of composite materials at the EAA 96 monthly meeting in April. I hope he can bring some of the same excitement that he generated at the Compton Airport to our June 14 meeting in Gardena.

Terry Price, retired, formerly at Cerritos College and a nationally recognized expert in aerospace composite materials

(3) Upcoming events at the RRS Mojave Test Area

The rocket build event with Spaceport LA planned for early May was cancelled. We hope to reschedule a similar event with them very soon. The RRS is always interested in supporting these rocket build events with public and private groups if there is sufficient interest. Larry Hoffing is our events coordinator and the point of contact for setting up these kinds of events.

events@rrs.org – Larry Hoffing

UCLA will be having their rocket launch event at the end of the Spring Quarter 2019 on Saturday, June 1st. Several model rocket motors will be fired as part of Dr. Mitchell Spearrin’s undergraduate class. We have been glad to support UCLA for three years running in hosting this event. The RRS has also been glad to support their liquid and solid rocket motor teams over recent years.

At this same June 1st launch event, Osvaldo and I talked about securing the alpha thrust stand and having a series of static hot fires to generate more thrust curves for our micrograin alphas. From the one and only thrust curve we made, it appears that the RRS standard alpha qualifies as an “I” sized motor. We had a setback last year when the concrete slab to which the rocket and thrust stand was secured proved to be an insufficient foundation to react the swift impulse loading of an alpha. We have this footage of this defective hot-fire test on our Instagram account. It’s almost comical, but we must do better for the sake of safety and good science. Further, we need more data. The RRS does not intend to commercialize the standard alpha, but for the sake of future projects using this vehicle as a test bed, it would be good to have more recent motor performance measurements.

First of ten alphas right at liftoff

Some of our membership had indicated interest in building payloads to fly inside of the RRS standard alpha rockets we fly at each of these school events. Nearly all of these payload tubes are empty and are available to members able to build and supply their payloads before the event. Contact the RRS president for more details on alpha rocket payload tube specifications.

president@rrs.org

Frank has confirmed another rocket build event starting this summer in June through the LAPD CSP program. LAPD has been an ardent supporter and our rocket build programs are a big hit with the kids. The final part of the project is the launch event at the RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA). This will likely take place on Saturday, July 13th. We often have at least six alphas and sometimes as many as a dozen rockets at these events.

(X1) A brief word to potential users of the RRS MTA

Our membership is welcome to bring more tests and flights to the manifest. The only requirements the RRS has is that all participants download and submit a Standard Record Form available from the RRS.ORG forms library. This document provides a basic description of the project that members or other authorized attendees intend to execute at the RRS MTA. Supporting illustrations and documents are encouraged to help explain the task and operations for the supervising pyrotechnic operator. Approval of all activities at the RRS MTA are at the discretion of the supervising pyrotechnic operator and the RRS.

For those outside of our membership wishing to use the RRS MTA, the society requires submission of Standard Record Forms for all proposed activities. These must be submitted to the RRS president at least 14 calendar days in advance of the planned MTA event. Details of these tests can be held confidentially, but the RRS must have the opportunity to review, understand and approve all activities at the RRS MTA well in advance of the event. The RRS would prefer to have at least a month’s notice if not more. The RRS has been glad to assist more and more groups particularly with universities, however, we can not always support events particularly when we get little or no advance notice.

In the professional aerospace industry, it is a common practice to schedule a date with the testing site many months in advance and use this calendar deadline to help motivate the team to achieving meaningful results in time for the pre-set date. Scheduling a test date as an after-thought in executing a project often leads to disappointing results. Also, the society strongly recommends that users consider using times of the year other than at the end of semesters or quarters. If an event is planned well in advance, we will keep it on our calendar and can more easily have the personnel and resources ready.

The RRS must coordinate our activities with several parties and the better informed we are and the more notice we have will result in the RRS being better able to serve our prospective membership and clients. For any questions about RRS policy or practices, please contact the RRS president. The RRS is a volunteer organization and will always make our best effort to support rocket programs and projects.

(4) Pyrotechnic Operators for Rocketry in California

The RRS has been on a campaign to get more of our membership to apply and attain their pyrotechnic operators license. We’ve enjoyed a lot of support from many of our licensed membership in getting the necessary letters of recommendation for the application process. The RRS has also been glad to have the advice and assistance of the California Fire Marshal’s office. Osvaldo Tarditti, Larry Hoffing, Drew Cortopassi, Chris Lujan and myself have been in the application process for the rocketry pyrotechnic operators license. At the May 2019 meeting, Alastair Martin indicated his interest in becoming a pyrotechnic operator also. With more pyrotechnic operators on the state roster, there is more opportunity for more groups to conduct events throughout California. The RRS plans to remain active in our support to the public.

It’s with pleasure that I announce that I have attained my 3rd class rockets pyrotechnic operator’s license from CALFIRE this month. This annually renewable license allows me to buy high powered solid motors and supervise launch events within this class of solid motors. I hope to soon announce more pyrotechnic operators at the RRS very soon. The RRS is also very glad for the support of the licensed pyro-operators in our society and outside of our society at Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR). It is through the mutual support of all rocketry organizations that we expand our voice in the state and maintain a high standard for safety and the bold tradition of experimentation made possible in the Golden State.

RRS’s newest pyrotechnic operator, Dave Nordling

It’s my intention to upgrade my license to rockets 2nd class to be able to supervise and manage the unlimited category of solid rocket motors. The RRS is an organization that regularly conducts flights and testing in the unlimited class of solid motors. Our proud tradition of responsible experimentation in solid rocket technologies has one of our perrennial activities for over seven decades from micrograin to composite motors.

For more information on the licensing process for pyrotechnic operators as it pertains to rocketry, please contact CALFIRE directly.

(5) RRS Constitutional Committee

Now that the 2019 RRS symposium is complete, the RRS Constitutional Committee will begin their task of systematically revising and updating the RRS constitution. This task was approved by the society earlier this year and the committee comprised of two regular members (Larry Hoffing and Bill Janczewski) and one executive council member (Frank Miuccio) were appointed to begin this task over the summer.

The RRS Constitution has been updated periodically through amendments and notices over the years. The society has decided that a full review and incorporation of all changes be made in an update to the constitution to be voted and approved by our active voting membership near this year’s end. The main intent of the committee is to examine the constitution and recommend changes to better reflect how the society operates today. RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti, did offer a word of caution that the Constitution should not be too specifically worded to over-regulate our operations. He has recommended that the committee take a minimalist approach and the committee will take this under advisement. Frank already has copies of the last edition of the RRS Constitution and amendments. These materials are available to all society members and some may already be on the RRS website.

This new revision will be known as the 2020 Constitution. It is a big effort and the society looks forward to the committee’s draft to be presented at the September 13, 2019, monthly meeting where suggestions and discussions will first commence.

(6) RRS Social Media Improvements – Recurring Topic

Alastair Martin was able to talk a little bit about RRS social media improvements and advertising of RRS events in general. One of his suggestions was that the society examine the use of EDDM (Every Door, Direct Mailers). These are the large postcard advertisements that organizations use to go into the mailboxes of targetted audiences throughout a region. Alastair has used these in the past with some of his events and had great success. The cost is substantial, but the results could be many more people getting notice to come to future symposiums and other large events with the RRS.

RRS media officer, Alastair Martin, discusses his ideas for marketing future RRS events at the May 2019 meeting

I had offered a suggestion that the RRS consider the use of more forms of electronic payment to help our ability to sell items at events or take membership dues and application fees. Venmo is a smartphone application that can be convenient for some to make direct payments to the RRS. The society seemed open to the idea, but it seemed to require further discussion and a vote to implement the change. There may be other means of electronic payment to consider however we must be cognizant of the fees involved and how practical each means would be for the society. We can bring this subject up again at the next meeting on June 14, 2019.

Currently, the RRS only has a PayPal account which is connected to our “DONATE” button on the RRS.ORG website. We encourage new applicants to use the “DONATE” button to tender their application fee ($40) if they desire associate membership at the RRS. Also, for our current membership, annual dues payments are much easier if made through PayPal or using our “DONATE” button. The only we ask for online donors is that they make a note of what the contribution is for and who we have to thank.

The RRS still accepts payments by direct mail to our post office box shown in our RRS.ORG website. The mailbox is not very frequently examined so it is strongly advised that all persons making payments to the RRS by direct mail contact the RRS president or RRS treasurer by email in advance to let them know to inspect the mailbox soon after the mail arrives. It is not uncommon for our direct mail to sit for a week or more.

Lastly, Alastair made mention of the next Rocket Talk Radio podcast which Richard Garcia and I will be a part of on Saturday, May 25th. The subject of this hour-long program will be Robert Truax. Truax was a key figure in 20th century rocketry and an important pioneer in the decades before the so-called “NewSpace” movement.

(7) RRS Participation with the CALFIRE committee on rocketry

The RRS was invited to attend CALFIRE’s review of the state’s regulations and laws on rocketry. Both the RRS and FAR have been reviewing regulations and preparing suggestions for improvements and clarifications to CALFIRE legislation governing the practice of amateur rocketry in California. The state has been very open to hearing from the amateur rocketry community about ideas and common sense changes that would make regulation better for all participants. Osvaldo has been involved with this activity and will soon schedule a separate meeting for RRS pyro-op’s to share and review our ideas. The CALFIRE committee will meet again in November 2019 and the RRS will offer our views on how the law can best serve the public.

(8) Topics for next meeting

Time ran out in the May meeting. Next month’s agenda will include further discussion about the RRS involvement with the base11 organization and the liquid rocket project (LR101) at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM).

Richard Garcia has indicated his interest in getting the first prototype of the RRS standard liquid rocket motor built and tested.

RRS members have been helping different university groups on their liquid rocket projects and we expect to greatly expand our activities in this area as this year unfolds.

Lastly, the quarterly update for the SuperDosa project will have be made at the July 12, 2019, meeting.

Our next meeting of the RRS will be Friday, June 14, 2019. We will likely have something to share from the MTA launch event with UCLA by then. If there are any corrections or additions to be made to this monthly meeting report, please notify the RRS secretary.

secretary@rrs.org