December 2019 meeting

Dave Nordling, Secretary, Reaction Research Society


The Reaction Research Society (RRS) met for our last monthly meeting of the year on December 13, 2019, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, California. We had a full house with three different universities represented and a few returning members who came out to see how this year was ending for the society. The Compton College STEM club came out and some of them joined the RRS that night. Compton College is working on their own liquid rocket build which may next year see some important testing conducted.

Compton College STEM club at the December 2019 meeting of the RRS. From left to right, Katherine Perez, Desiree Medina, Erik Aparicio, Jamie Alvarez

Frank Chandler who is the director of Cal Poly Pomona’s (CPP) liquid rocket group and an RRS member was also at the meeting to discuss a March test date at the RRS MTA. He mentioned that Cal Poly Pomona recently had a tour of the AstroPak company in Downey, California. AstroPak has been in the business of cleaning mechanical parts for oxygen service for many years. The CPP students got to see each step of the process and learned the importance of maintaining this cleanliness throughout operations. Nearly all liquid rocket projects have decided to use liquid oxygen which has it’s own challenges to meet. Studying and keeping good cleanliness practices is paramount to avoiding catastrophe.

Chris Lujan and Frank Miuccio establish the link to bring in Richard Garcia, our director of research into the meeting.

We also were happy to have our director of research, Richard Garcia, calling into the meeting. Frank Miuccio and Chris Lujan have been very helpful in establishing a call-in number for some of our former and current members to call in when they are away from the city. We hope to have more of our membership calling in so that they may remain informed and active with their membership in the society. As per our tradition, we always value those making the trip to visit us in person.

After calling the meeting to order, and the reading of the treasury report, we covered our agenda items. We covered nearly all of our agenda and had time for special presentation from two members of Long Beach Rocketry at California State University Long Beach (CSULB). The purpose of their visit was to introduce themselves to the RRS.

CSU Long Beach presenters with their latest prototype on display at the December 2019 meeting of the RRS.
Frank Chandler sits at the table next to the Long Beach Rocketry team’s next assembly on display at the December meeting of the RRS.

Corey Fraga and Dan Dao gave us a short presentation of their team and some of their recent accomplishments. Their solid motor rocket project started in 2015 and has done well in recent competitions including the NASA University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) taking fifth place among a long list of worthy competitors. They also brought their most recent prototype vehicle which has a quadricopter drone built into the cargo bay. After the rocket completes its flight and gently touches down from its parachute recovery system, the cargo bay opens from an electric motor driven mechanism which allows the drone to take off and survey the landing site. The idea is to create a system that could be useful in planetary exploration or even in remote or dangerous areas here on Earth.

CSU Long Beach (Corey Fraga, Dan Dao) makes their presentation on their latest competition at Huntsville, AL.

The Long Beach Rocketry group offered to give the RRS a tour of their lab facilities on campus. The RRS graciously accepted their invitation. We should hopefully announce a date soon for this event.

Corey Fraga and Dan Dao finish their presentation at the December meeting of the RRS.

[1] Results from the last MTA launch

The launch report from the December 7, 2019, event has already been posted. We had a successful event despite an earlier concern for bad weather. Thankfully, the rain fell early and had cleared by Saturday morning. We were able to get our equipment set up for the event, but the society needs to invest in a simple sumping pump in case we need to remove any standing water from our bunkers or other enclosed spaces that have failed to drain from a recent rain or flooding. We are thankful to our neighbors at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) for letting us borrow their sump pump.

Two students of 99th Street Elementary wait for the next launch in the RRS MTA observation bunker. Many of our observers could use something to stand a little higher to see better.

I also noticed that we could use a few more cinder blocks in the blockhouse. Many of our students are too short to see over the wall and the few blocks we already have are not enough. The RRS should buy a few more cinder blocks and possibly make some standing benches to help our students see their hard work better from the safety of the observation bunker.

An RRS standard alpha takes off into the moist air of December at the MTA.

Another observation made was the students from the neighboring Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) site were often seen walking around too close to the RRS launching site as we were conducting road and air checks for our alpha rocket launches. It appeared that they were searching to recover their rocket from their prior flight, but we aborted three different countdowns due to car movements seen, or people crossing by on the north road adjacent to our property, and even one oblivious individual who was walking downrange of our own RRS MTA launch site as we were in the count!. The RRS and FAR must better coordinate our launch and recovery protocols respecting each others’ boundaries if only for the safety of all people concerned.

FAR and the RRS often conduct events on the same day and since our societies are sharing the launch areas and have many common interests, the RRS will work with FAR to find the best approach to assure safety and smooth operations for all.

[2] Next events at the MTA

Frank Miuccio is already working on the next event with LAPD CSP. The program will likely have its first class possibly on the Friday after the Martin Luther King holiday. Five to six weeks later means that the launch event could take place in late February or early March 2020.

I’ve been planning a launch event at the RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA) much sooner than that. For too many years, the RRS MTA sits empty in January and February for no good reason. I sought to undo this trend by holding an event just with our membership the way that our society used to operate.

At first, I was able to confirm Wolfram Blume who wants to fly his booster and ramjet upper stage system, if only for a system test of his booster, staging mechanism and recovery system. The ramjet upper stage will not be fired and will be loaded with an equivalent weight of water in its gasoline fuel tank to get the correct balance of the final vehicle. It’s a bit of risk to fly the actual ramjet prototype but there is no better way to get the right aerodynamics. It should be a good test and with luck his systems all pass the first flight test at the RRS MTA.

Larry and I have been talking about integrating a commercial hybrid motor into his 38mm fiberglass rocket. If I can acquire the motor parts, Larry will help me get the recovery system and the rest of the motor mounting complete. This will be the first hybrid motor launch from the RRS MTA in a very long time.

Also, John Krell voiced his interest in re-flying his improved avionics payload in an RRS standard alpha. This one will have an expanded accelerometer range to catch the ultra-fast burn of the alpha. He’s working on improving the data rate as recent open-source software changes have downgrading the sampling by half for some inexplicable reason.

CSULB’s Long Beach Rocketry team, (left to right) Corey Fraga and Dan Dao, Frank Chandler (CPP) and John Krell at the December meeting of the RRS

Brian Johnson and Bill Behenna each have avionics packages in development. The RRS has plenty of alpha boosters ready if members can get their payloads integrated into a suitable payload tube in time. We hope to confirm the launch manifest by New Year’s Day so I am hopeful we will have a fun launch day on January 18, 2020. We have also spread the word to our university project teams that the RRS MTA will be open for testing or flights if they can be ready on this date early in the year. The RRS encourages all teams to plan ahead and test early and often to assure their later success.

[3] Progress on the 2020 RRS symposium

Frank Miuccio, our vice president and symposium coordinator, has had some difficulties in confirming the symposium date, but we are hopeful that the April 18, 2020 will be the symposium date. We also may have the option for April 25, 2020. The Ken Nakaoka Community Center of Gardena will hopefully confirm the date for our symposium Monday.

The Long Beach Rocketry group and the Compton College STEM club have both indicated their interest in presenting or exhibiting at the 2020 RRS symposium. In many cases, it can be first come, first serve. This will be the fourth symposium in a row for us and we hope to continue the momentum we’ve built. I have a few government and private companies in mind to give us a great slate of speakers. We just need to confirm the symposium date.

[4] Treasurer’s report on the membership roster, dues payment policy change

Chris Lujan has been surveying the sign-up sheets from past months over recent years to help establish who has been attending meetings and how often. Active membership requires participation in the society as it does with any group. Attending monthly meetings is not the only means of staying active as attending launch events or participating in outside events also qualifies. The RRS is working on building a firm definition to make clear when a member is or is not active. This is important as our Constitution requires both an administrative membership class AND active membership to retain voting rights. Each year, we try to reach our past and present members but without effort on the member’s part to keep their information current, our elections and voting on important measures must go on without them. Contacting any member of the RRS executive council is the best way to keep the society updated on your whereabouts and contact information.. The membership roster is managed by the RRS treasurer.

treasurer@rrs.org

Chris is also working up some percentages for how many of our active membership are current with their dues payment. Initial estimates are encouraging, but since we have many new members who paid upon their induction, these high percentages make sense. It is our longer term members who are often neglecting their duty to keep their dues paid each year. Dues payment is also an essential element of membership.

The executive council has voted a policy change to when dues are to be paid. Effective immediately, all dues payments must be made by January 1st of each calendar year. I was glad that the society has supported this firm fixed date which makes accounting for dues much easier on our treasurer. The membership roster will also track dues payment and active membership status. For the several lifetime members in the society, this past membership class will remain and dues payment is not required for these persons, however, remaining active with the society is still a requirement to keep voting rights.

[5] 2020 Constitutional Committee report

Frank Miuccio was able to report that the 2020 Constitutional Committee has met a couple of times in the last two months and is reviewing the last page of the new draft. The committee will present its draft to the executive council at year’s end. The executive council will review the draft before presenting it to our administrative membership for consideration and a subsequent two-thirds ratification vote.

[6] Social media updates

Our social media coordinators were both not in attendance in December. The RRS continues to be active on Instagram. Our Facebook page needs some management. The RRS is also looking at trying to build a calendar feature on the RRS.ORG website to better announce events.

secretary@rrs.org

The RRS continues to use WordPress for its ease of use and simplicity, but the society has been considering reformatting and restyling our page or at least re-organizing the menu options to make finding common things easier. This will be a task for the new RRS secretary.

[7] CSFM committee on amateur rocketry

The California State Fire Marshal’s (CSFM) office has been holding hearings with the broader pyrotechnic operator’s community throughout the state this year. Most of the community is made up of the fireworks and special effects community. Amateur rocketry is a smaller and separate group which has our own interests we operate very differently from the other larger groups.

The RRS (Larry Hoffing), ROC (Chris Kobel) and FAR (Mark Holthaus) discuss a collective list of proposed changes to CSFM definitions governing amateur rocketry on 12/04/2019.

Mark Holthaus of FAR has been reviewing the definitions pages of the California laws relevant to amateur rocketry. The RRS and FAR have met on three different occasions in the last two months. The RRS has found FAR’s proposed changes to be very reasonable and accurately reflect how we can continue to operate safely. We have also included feedback from members of the Rocketry Organization of California (ROC) at the last two meetings. David Reese of ROC has been particularly helpful in improving and clarifying the language which governs our hobby and we are also grateful for his assistance.

Mark has made arrangements to discuss our proposed changes with the CSFM office on Monday, December 16th. We hope this informal meeting goes well and that all of our recommendations can be implemented which will assure both safety and legal operations for our groups. Some of the amateur rocketry groups are not national organizations and would be harmed by excessive regulation from the state. The CSFM office has been very welcoming and open to ideas thus far. CSFM has not often held these kinds of reviews and the RRS recognizes the great opportunity we’ve had to help shape policy for everyone in rocketry in California.

[8] RRS executive council election results for 2020

Larry Hoffing, our appointed election chairman for this annual election cycle, certified his results to the membership at our December 2019 meeting as required per our Constitution. Each officer was elected by unanimous vote. Our new executive council officers starting in January 1, 2020 are as follows:

Osvaldo Tarditti, president@rrs.org

Frank Miuccio, vicepresident@rrs.org

Drew Cortopassi, secretary@rrs.org

Chris Lujan, treasurer@rrs.org

The RRS is grateful to our election chairman, Larry Hoffing, for fulfilling his duties to the society. The council will appoint a new chairman next November when we hold nominations for the next election cycle. The society is thankful to our new and returning officers who have stepped up to serve the society for this next exciting year, 2020.

[9] Proposed RRS MTA standard fee schedule

The RRS has become increasingly active with more and more requests to use our Mojave Test Area (MTA). This is a very good thing, but often scheduling of hot-fire events has become excessively chaotic. The RRS understands that sometimes things happen that can force cancellation of a planned event with little or no notice. Weather is often the main culprit of such things. However, as one who has participated in coordinating launch events at the MTA this year in conjunction with our RRS president, I have seen many occasions when poor planning is the only reason for a last minute cancellation. Worst yet, the society has also received far too many last minute requests for use of our site. The RRS is in the process of drafting a standard fee schedule which will explain the requirements for outside users of the MTA. The exact details of this forthcoming policy are still under discussion, but the following is some of the ideas that were discussed.

The RRS is happy to help as many organizations as we can, but our customers must understand that:

(1) We are a volunteer society. Few, if any, of us are paid for the substantial time and resources spent to make these events possible. While we often generously donate our time to support and promote these events, the society needs money to operate and improve our site and this must come from charging fees to pay for repairs improvement projects. A standard fee schedule will be drafted, reviewed and approved by the society before the end of the year.

(2) We operate the RRS MTA by APPOINTMENT ONLY! There is no sign-up calendar like what is used by other amateur rocketry organizations such as FAR. We operate in this fashion because we stress the importance of advanced planning. Last minute requests for using the MTA site will very likely be rejected. Rocketry is a dangerous hobby and the importance of careful preparation is reflected in the desire of the RRS to accept only advance notification for all proposed projects. This not only makes planning events easier for all parties, but it makes them safer. Contact the RRS president for all requests to use the RRS MTA.

(3) Our indemnification forms are required to be signed and submitted by ALL PERSONS well in advance of attending the event. This includes spectators, spouses, significant others, and children. This has been standing policy at the RRS MTA and will remain so. Just showing up at our MTA site on the day of the event is NOT acceptable and people will be turned away if our policies are not respected.

(4) We expect several weeks advance notice to conduct a thorough review of each new project. This means that all groups must have their operating procedures, checklists, drawings, schematics already prepared for the pyro-op’s review when the request is submitted.well in advance of the requested event date. Expecting the pyro-op to examine your intended test article and procedures for the project only on the day of the event upon their arrival is NOT REASONABLE.

Events at the MTA will be conducted with a pyro-op appointed by the RRS. Our pyro-op should have had the opportunity to see everything well planned and well in advance. Attending RRS monthly meetings is an excellent way for potential users to familiarize themselves with the society and our expectations. Submitting your project description on an RRS standard record form a month in advance and was formerly policy at the RRS. Everyone must understand that the pyro-op in charge can refuse any test at any time for any reason making your journey out to the MTA all for naught.

Based on an accumulation of both good and bad experiences, I will undertake a project to draft an official RRS policy on testing at the MTA for our outside customers that will take affect on January 1, 2020. I was glad to get a lot of feedback from potential customers and other members at the December meeting. To our society members, please send me your feedback soon as I will be working this policy out in the next two weeks before the executive council approves it.

The RRS will begin charging standard daily fees for use of the MTA site and charging a separate daily fee for the pyrotechnic operator in charge at this event. Pricing may vary with private companies and universities, but in all cases, fees are expected to be paid before approval of the event is given by the RRS. Cancellations within two weeks of the event will result in forfeiture of all of those fees for that event date and new fees must be paid again for a new test date. When customers stand to lose their fees if they fail to deliver on their commitments to the RRS, they will better understand the importance of managing their projects better as they must now avoid the cost of cancellations. Other groups, both amateur and professional organizations, operate successfully with these kinds of policies and the RRS will be enforcing their own policies soon.

[10] Review of the Gas Guzzler ramjet project

Wolfram Blume and his wife were kind enough to stop by the December RRS meeting bringing his booster rocket for one more inspection. I will be the pyro-op in charge of his first test flight on 1/18/2020 and I wanted a closer look at how secure and stiff his fins were. Based on my inspection, his booster looks ready for rail launch. With luck, his staging and recovery systems will function without issue. Wolfram has borrowed from prior successful designs flown at ROC events in Lucerne Valley. The RRS is glad to assist him with this ambitious project.

Wolfram Blume stands with his booster used on the Gas Guzzler project.

[11] Solid propellant making classes

The RRS was approached about restarting our composite grain propellant making classes at the RRS MTA. After some careful assessment of our equipment, resources and available personnel, the RRS is not yet ready to offer these classes again. Twenty years ago, the society held a few of these solid motor building classes which became very popular. The RRS is building back our capabilities and this will take some time.

The Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) has offered similar classes at their site and for the time being, the RRS must refer interested parties to them.

[12] SuperDosa project update

The SuperDosa project was established two years ago with the intent of the RRS restarting our large solid motor building skills to progressively build larger vehicles able to not only breach the von Karman line (100 km ASL), but surpass the current amateur rocketry altitude record holder. Despite our increasing membership, we have not had much progress to date. Given my commitments to several liquid rocket projects, I am handing over my leadership duties to Drew Sherman. Drew is a founder of Leo Aerospace and also an active RRS member. His interests very much align with this project and with the combined resources of others in the society building high powered motors, we hope that Drew can continue this project to its lofty goal of bringing the title back to the Reaction Research Society.

[13] RRS MTA facility improvements

Osvaldo Tarditti, our society president, continues to lead our MTA facility improvement projects, chief among those is improving our bathroom facilities at the site. Osvaldo has drafted plans for an improved bathroom facility at our remote RRS MTA site. The RRS will be soliciting bids from local contractors soon and we hope to commence this important improvement at the MTA sometime this spring and complete by the summer. The society has nearly enough funds for this project, but we are hoping to receive a few more thousand dollars to initiate this project sooner than later.

Also on our list of improvements is a blockhouse replacement, horizontal mounting plate at our testing area to create a regular interface pattern for future users rather than continue the unregulated drilling of anchor bolts (and the hated “male” variety of these anchor bolts) into our concrete slab. RRS members, Dmitri Timohovich and Wilbur Owens have been supporting the society on this improvement as it will require heavy equipment to place and secure this trench plate at the RRS MTA.

Larry Hoffing has recognized that the society will soon need a second 40-foot container for storage. We will be acquiring some new solid propellant mixing equipment and we need to rearrange our inventory in a more organized and accessible fashion. Whether this comes in the form of a new container on our MTA site or possibly one given to us from our site tenant, Polaris Propulsion Inc., remains to be seen. The society will continue to monitor progress and set goals to complete these tasks.

IN CLOSING

This will be my last monthly report as I am stepping down as secretary of the RRS. I have enjoyed serving in this role for the last three years, but it is time for me to allow a new secretary to lend his voice to you, our readers. I will remain active with the society, but only as a member engaged in many projects around the society. The society grows as we bring new members in and the society gets new ideas. It is also important that we also get new leadership from time to time. I hope to see more of our new administrative membership step up for these executive council roles in the future. There is no better way to help the society than with service.

As my last parting comment, I would encourage ALL of our membership to write and submit articles. The RRS.ORG website is one of the best ways we educate and inform the public about the things that interest the society in rocketry. Even simple academic subjects are excellent ideas. Next year, you may see a couple articles from me, but I want to encourage all of our membership to do more than just mention ideas in conversations, but write them down, text them, email them, convey them to the RRS secretary. It is the job of the RRS secretary to be the chief editor and means of publication for our membership. Past articles are welcome as we have re-printed ones from our long past. We also heartily welcome new content. Any time is a good time to submit.

Our next meeting will be held January 10, 2020, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center at 7:30PM. If there are questions or corrections, please notify the RRS secretary. After January 1, this will be Drew Cortopassi.

secretary@rrs.org

With gracious thanks to the society, I hope to see everyone in the new year.

Group photo taken at the end of the December 13, 2019 meeting of the RRS in Gardena.

MTA launch event, 2018-10-27

The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held another launch event at our private testing site, the Mojave Test Area (MTA), on October 27, 2018. We had a really big day in hosting a launch event for Weigand Elementary School and supporting the projects of several of our members. This was one of the more perfect days for a launch. The day time temperatures stayed below 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the winds were nearly still the whole day.

Old Glory slowly waves in the light breeze of the cool late October morning in the Mojave Desert

Our pyro-op for the event was John Newman, of the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) group.

Friends of Amateur Rocketry – webpage

John allowed myself, Dave Nordling, and Larry Hoffing apprentice under him for the event as we are both in training to become licensed pyrotechnic operators in California.

John Newman (right) from Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) talks with Mr. Oswald (left) and Dr. Kasparian (middle) at the RRS MTA, 10/27/2018

John Newman (left, behind the wall) and Larry Hoffing (right) oversee the loading of micrograin propellant at the RRS MTA

The RRS welcomed Weigand Elementary School and the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Community Service Program (CSP). They had just finished the six session program and had ten (10) alphas ready to launch.

Frank Miuccio shows one of the two RRS blockhouses to the students of Weigand Elementary School

RRS member, Michael Lunny, had come out to the MTA the week before to help Osvaldo with mixing of the micrograin propellant. The simple mixture of zinc and sulfur powders is relatively safe, but requires time to properly mix and load. With the larger demand for alpha rockets with school projects and our growing membership, it’s no longer a process that can be done in the early morning hours before launch day.

Osvaldo Tarditti and Michael Lunny at the RRS MTA, 10/27/2018, having done the hard work of loading the rockets the week before

The ten alphas from Weigand Elementary and Michael Lunny’s alpha in white, all loaded, tagged and ready to go

RRS member Alastair Martin was at our event doing a great job in video-recording many aspects of our event. Alastair and Bill Janczewski, both newly elected to the position of Media Coordinator at the RRS, have been helping expand the presence of the RRS in social media and to the public at large.

Alastair Martin, armed and ready, in the RRS MTA blockhouse

Alastair gets his camera ready for the next alpha launch

Alastair got a lot of great shots and video-footage which I’ll share as they come in. Some of the short videos and photos from the 2018-10-27 event are already posted on the RRS Instagram page.

Follow the RRS on Instagram – ReactionResearchSociety

Just before the briefing, two of our new members had the chance to experience loading their own alpha rockets with the micrograin propellant. Xavier Marshall and Wilbur Owens were coached in the process and got a first-hand feel for classic micrograin rocketry. Michael Lunny’s alpha rocket was already set to go the week before when he helped Osvaldo load the ten alphas for Weigand Elementary.

Wilbur Owens loads his alpha rocket, one cupful at a time, gently bouncing out the air pockets as he goes

Once the alpha propellant tube is full of propellant up to the bolt holes, Xavier Marshall prepares to install his nozzle with the electric match and burst disk which retains the powdered propellant inside

A close-up view of the alpha nozzle with its plastic burst-disk and electric match resting on the interior side, the electric match wires protrude out the bottom (held back by carpenter’s tape just for convenience)

[SAFETY BRIEFING]

We conducted our safety briefing at the beginning of the event before all present. We discussed the many natural and man-made hazards to help everyone become aware and be more safe. John Newman made us aware of a native species of snake, the Mojave Green Rattlesnake, which is sometimes known to become aggressive when discovered. The Wikipedia page is linked below.

the Mojave green rattlesnake

Mojave Green Rattlesnake – Wikipedia

Frank also reminded everyone about keeping their distance from the Desert Tortoise, which is a federally protected species that is also indigenous to the Mojave desert and the MTA. It isn’t very common to see these animals during the height of the day, but everyone needs to be aware and take heed of their surroundings to protect themselves and the environment.

The federally protected Desert Tortoise

Desert Tortoise – Wikipedia page

Besides avoiding heat exhaustion and spiders, collecting and properly disposing of trash, and maintaining their hydration, all attendees must remain under the cover of our reinforced bunker during hazardous operations. With the conclusion of the briefing, we proceeded to a propellant demonstration to show the combustion process on a sample of composite propellant and micrograin powder.

Small sample of composite grain propellant burns hot enough to cut through the steel case supporting it, slow burning but very potent

The bright yellow plume of burning micrograin propellant, zinc and sulfur together go up pretty fast

The next step was getting everyone into the bunker, while John Newman conducted the event as our pyro-op. Larry and I were on hand to assist in the loading and readiness for firing. The RRS alpha had a steel box frame launcher which is our preferred method of guiding these speedy metal rockets up and downrange west.

We got started loading them into the rack by the numbers. The kids did a great job of painting them and making them their own. Most importantly, they label them with large numbers. The color of the fins matter the most since that is the only part left sticking out of the ground at the end of flight.

First of ten alphas right at liftoff

Same rocket just a few frames later

After launching all ten of the rockets, we all took our lunch break. The day was very pleasant, but we all enjoyed a little bit of shade. After lunch, LAPD CSP packed everyone up for the long drive to Los Angeles.

Frank talks with the kids of Weigand Elementary after having lunch after a great launch

[MEMBER PROJECTS]

We started working on membership projects starting with launching Michael’s alpha. It’s always rewarding to launch your first alpha and it’s an experience that never gets old. It’s usually one in a series to come. Big thanks to Michael for helping the society get ready for the event.

Xavier Marshall tried a new approach to launch by allowing me to use the fly-away railguide that I had customized for the 1.25″ RRS alpha propellant tube. Additive Aerospace makes many standard models which this one was derived from the 38 mm design.

Additive Aerospace – fly-away rail guides

Xavier Marshall’s RRS alpha clamped into the launch rails

Flyaway railguide clamped around an RRS alpha

Xavier Marshall inspects his first alpha as it sits on the rail

The first rail launch of an RRS standard alpha was successful. The flyaway railguide seemed to hold as the micrograin rocket sped off the rails. We took video from the facing side of the rail to get a better look at the operation. I was able to get one good still from my camera phone video from the blockhouse. You can see the railguide just above the fins as the rocket has cleared the rails so the flyaway railguide has sprung open and now is free to tumble away.

Xavier’s rail launched alpha rocket makes a clean path up the 20-foot guide, rail guide still seen near the rocket just after clearing the rail

The railguide fit to the alpha very well but the rail buttons were a little sticky as the rocket was slipped into place. I think the dusty aluminum rail is more to blame for this. The workmanship on these flyaway railguides from Additive Aerospace is quite good. Flying one of these devices with a micrograin rocket was expected to be challenging given the high acceleration that micrograin rockets are known for.

The railguide was not recovered intact. I recovered most of the pieces and the plastic end pieces showed fractures. It’s not clear if the railguide broke on the ground from the fall, but given the spread of the pieces, it could be possible the sudden acceleration of the RRS alpha fractured the lower clamp as the rocket took off. Review of Alastair’s video in slow motion may answer what the failure mode is. All pieces were recovered within 50 feet of the rail.

The recovered pieces of the flyaway rail guide. A successful launch but the mechanism didn’t survive for more than one attempt.

Jack Oswald and his team had a set of sample end-burner motors with their next batch of propellant for burn-rate testing. After setting up the first motor, a key part was missing and the pressure transducer had to be mounted too close to the exit plume. It was expected that the pressure transducer wouldn’t survive the first burn but the test was expected to take good data. The test was executed, but unfortunately the test over-pressurized due to the grain separating from its liner during the initial startup. A lot was learned but the other motors were not able to be tested.

Jack Oswald inspects his test motors as he moves them to safe storage before test

Jack’s BEM test starts out okay. A leakage stream is seen coming out the side.

Just a second later, Jack’s test rig overpressurizes and the nozzle plate pops off

My last photo taken of that day was the last of the three member alphas sitting in the box rails ready to go. Wilbur Owens had the honor of flying his first alpha rocket at sunset.

Wilbur Owens takes a picture of his first alpha ready to fly away

The sun setting at the RRS MTA, Wilbur Owens’ first alpha rocket sits ready to fly out of the rails

With the last of our thirteen alphas flying out, we proceeded with the first firing of the horizontal thrust stand built to test loaded alpha propellant tubes. Osvaldo made some modifications to my stout steel frame adapted to the concrete slab in front of the old RRS blockhouse. Dave Crisalli poured this concrete slab as a working platform in the 1970’s. USC in recent times drilled the slab with 1/2″ female anchor bolts to test small 50-lbf motors. It made sense to use this existing foundation for our horizontal thrust stand.

Matteo Tarditti installs the completed RRS horizontal thrust stand to the concrete slab

Osvaldo uses his 185 lbf son, Matteo, as a quick load cell calibration check as Jack Oswald observes the 1124-lbf ranged load cell output on the laptop in the blockhouse. Awkward, but effective.

After some initial software and operator problems with getting and keeping the S-type load cell calibrated, the system was ready to go.

It has been MANY years since the RRS had made direct impulse measurements of an RRS alpha micrograin rocket, but we felt this hardware would be useful for other similar projects in our near future. Although horizontal testing of a micrograin rocket is not indicative of the actual vertical flight, we felt we could still learn much from this testing.

A simple bottle jack (commonly used for changing an automobile tire) was used as a load cell calibration device (pressure gauge was damaged in handling)

We retreated to the blockhouse and got the testing underway. After two false starts from the bunker, we got the alpha motor to fire in the horizontal position and captured it on video.

The results were good in that the load cell readings were captured and the structure adequately retained the rocket in its very brief (0.4 second) thrust bit. Osvaldo crunched the numbers from the readings we got from the test. Load cell readings indicated we reached a peak thrust of 544 lbf. Burn time was only 0.4 seconds.

This is the raw data from the alpha firing in the (translating) horizontal thrust stand; we need more data

Results from the alpha static firing on 2018-10-27

The RRS is very grateful to Interface Force Inc. of Arizona for their generous donation of the S-type load cell we’re using.

www.interfaceforce.com

An S-type load cell, made by Interface Force Inc.

These devices are not very expensive ($350?? each) and are available in sizes from just 100 lbf to up to several thousand pounds. Button cells are more compact and also work well, but they tend to be more expensive.

The big surprise was that our concrete pad wasn’t as well secured as we had hoped. The pad was only 6 inches thick which means that the slab was only an inch or so beneath the surface. I do recall being told this slab poured by RRS member, Dave Crisalli, in the 1970’s, was only intended to be a working surface and that it wasn’t very deep. USC in recent times had drilled the pad with 1/2″ female anchor bolts for a small 50-lbf.

The concrete slab held fast initially, but suddenly broke free displacing itself by over half its length.

Another observation was that we get a little bit of gas leakage at the end of the burn at the bulkhead. This has been seen in other alpha flight videos and thus it wasn’t a surprise.

Despite the moving target of the whole stand moving, just after the alpha fires, you can see gas leakage at the bulkhead

Osvaldo did not see any damage to the seals when we disassembled the rocket from the stand. This may be a weakness of the seal design but it doesn’t seem to harm performance. More experimentation will shed light on this.

Check out the RRS Instagram page to see this footage. I’ll be uploading it to our YouTube page soon as Instagram has a 60-second time limit for video.

While we were conducting test operations at the MTA, Wilbur Owens located his rocket downrange and started the laborious process of alpha recovery by shovel. Osvaldo’s extractor tool has made short work of this step, but I don’t know if it was available that day?

[PROPELLANT DISPOSAL OPERATIONS]

Jack and his team had a quantity of unspent composite propellant which had to be properly disposed. He had quite a bit from a failed attempt to cast a previous motor that hardened too quickly. The RRS MTA is a good place to do this. With the low winds, we are able to safely touch off the two batches in the waning hours of the day.

The first burn was the smaller of the two. The sun had already set so we were losing the light fast.

The first propellant disposal burn was a bit brighter than I thought but manageable.

With the light almost gone, the second batch lit up the night just for a brief moment before fading.

2nd propellant disposal burn starts off with the last of the daylight fading at the MTA

The second propellant disposal burn at its brightest, but quickly fades as the burn safely completes

[IN CONCLUSION … THINGS COMING UP]

Frank had said that the LAPD CSP is looking to start the next school program in January of 2019. We are very grateful to the LAPD CSP for their continuous support to our classes. The RRS is proud to help the community by sharing the hobby we love.

As mentioned in our last monthly meeting, the next event with the RRS will be our visit to Chapter 96 of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). RRS members, Xavier Marshall and Wilbur Owens, invited the RRS membership to join them at their hangar at the Compton Airport on Saturday morning, November 3rd, at 10:00 AM. The RRS is interested in getting inexpensive shop space that is reasonably convenient to our membership residing in the Los Angeles area. The RRS is looking to help cultivate practical machining skills such as lathe work and milling. Many of our members already have these skills to some degree, but want to help other members become more adept at making their own nozzles, nosecones and other rocket parts.

The next RRS meeting will be November 9th at 7:30PM at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, California. We hope to have Jack Oswald and his team present their results. Despite the failure of the first and only sample hot-firing a great deal was learned which will make the next set of tests more likely to succeed.

September 2018 meeting

The RRS held its monthly meeting for September 2018 this Friday, the 14th, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center. We were displaced from our usual meeting room, but got the upstairs room F with the window view which was pretty nice. We were well attended, but got a very late start. Meetings begin at 7:30pm. There were several little events at the meeting which did not make the agenda.

Alastair Martin, Bill Behenna and Richard Garcia at the September 2018 meeting of the RRS

[X1]
The RRS was glad to welcome new student member, Bailey Cislowski. We had a short little social event at the end of the meeting which was a nice way to end the week.

Bailey Cislowski and RRS VP, Frank Miuccio

Also, the RRS was glad to re-welcome new members Wilbur Owens and Xavier Marshall. Wilbur had his first rite of passage in the RRS by taking his first standard alpha rocket. He’s looking forward to filling it with micrograin at the next launch event on October 27th. It will be one of many to come!

Xavier Marshall and Wilbur Owens; Wilbur gets his first RRS alpha

[X2]
Xavier invited the RRS to come tour the Experimental Aircraft Association’s local chapter at the Compton Airport. The EAA holds regular events including educational events with local kids.

Experimental Aircraft Association, Spirit of 96

Contact information for the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association in Compton

[X3]
RRS member Alastair Martin is active with the Mars Society which just completed their 21st annual International Mars Society convention at the Pasadena Convention Center. If Alastair can oblige at our next RRS meeting, I have asked him to give the RRS a report on his experiences at the event.

Mars Society – home page

Besides film-making and photography, another one of Alastair’s talents is screen-printing on shirts. I recently had the RRS logo added to this bright-yellow shirt that I bought to better survive the hot Mojave desert climate of the RRS MTA. These bright-yellow “Ultra-Club” cool & dry shirts can be bought on Amazon in a variety of sizes besides the “XL” that I wear.

The RRS logo proudly worn on a fall afternoon

[X4]
I recently purchased a fly-away rail guide from Additive Aerospace. This company specializes in model rocketry parts including this simple clamp-on device that obviates the need for mounting rail buttons on the smaller rockets.

Additive Aerospace – fly-away rail guides

Additive Aerospace was nice enough to customize their standard 38mm design to fit the slightly smaller (1.25″ diameter) RRS standard alpha propellant tube. The fit check was perfect and the next step will be to attempt to launch an alpha from the 80-20 rail launcher we have.

Flyaway rail guide customized for an RRS standard alpha micrograin rocket is a good fit (and held closed by my hand).

Flyaway rail guide has two pairs of rail buttons to hold the rocket on the launch rail.

The flyaway rail guide is spring-loaded to open once the rocket travels up and off the launch rail, then simply falls away as the rocket speeds off

1.5-inch 80-20 aluminum rail extrusion, rail buttons are guided down this path on the rocket’s way up and away

12-foot aluminum 80-20 rail launcher, RRS MTA bunker in the background

[X5]
Osvaldo completed the cylinder piece of the ballistic evaluation motor (BEM) assembly that I designed for testing the burn rate of solid propellant samples. I forgot to bring the graphite nozzle pucks that Richard Garcia made for the assembly. Once the gaskets are fitted and the pressure transducer is checked out, we can begin to prepare 4-inch long samples of propellant into the 3/4-inch PVC tubes for which the BEM was designed to fire. This will be a useful tool in characterizing the AP/HTPB/Aluminum solid propellant batches that will be used in the prototypes of the SuperDosa project. Larry has already made a small batch of the RRS standard recipe solid propellant. Some of these first grains may be used in the propellant burn demonstration at the next RRS MTA launch event.

RRS BEM cylinder sits on top of the bottom plate, top plate in the background

[X6]
Thanks to Osvaldo again for his help with the two-stage alpha rocket that I designed. In this prototype, the payload tube was made longer for the possibility of a parachute recovery system for the upper stage. The 1-1/4″ PVC pipe was machined down to 1.600″ OD to fit inside of the standard alpha’s aluminum payload tube. The steel nozzle design, although simpler to make, may prove to be excessively heavy and throw off the mass balance of the rocket. The graphite nozzle design with its split retaining ring may be the better choice. More work is needed before attempting to fly this prototype design including completing the inter-stage timer circuit for deploying the in-line second stage motor in flight.

Two-stage RRS alpha rocket; second stage with a small AP/HTPB/Aluminum solid grain motor

[X7]
Since August, Osvaldo has made some progress in testing the load cell that will be used in the horizontal thrust stand. The bottle jack he used was tapped with an analog pressure gauge and the compression load into the load cell can be accurately measured. Despite some seal leakage problems with the older bottle jack, the results he and Matteo gathered from his data acquisition unit showed our S-type load cell matches the calibration sheet fairly well.

Load cell compression testing rig using a pressure gauge and a bottle jack

Finally, we got to some of the originally scheduled agenda topics:

[1]
Frank Miuccio gave an overview of the next educational event that had its first event of the series held today at Weigand Elementary school. This is the latest in the series of events we’ve had with the LAPD CSP program. The final event will the launch of the alpha rockets at the RRS MTA on October 27, 2018. Dave Crisalli will be our pyro-op at the event.

Osvaldo, Larry and Frank listen at the September 2018 meeting

[2]
We didn’t have another launch event planned yet for this year, but it’s always possible.

[3]
Richard Garcia gave a brief overview of his successful hot-fire test of his 1000-lbf kerosene-LOX motor on August 18, 2018. His pintle injector with an ablative chamber insert worked very well despite a leaking fitting at the LOX port. Some of the equipment did not work completely as hoped, but the overall test produced a stable thrust profile and clean cut-off. Richard put a lot of work into this first design which helps pave the way to the RRS standard liquid rocket project which will remain a regular topic with the RRS moving forward.

Richard Garcia after presenting his liquid rocket testing results; a proud day

Richard then moved into the details of integrating a liquid motor into a rocket body. Using commonly available parts and a few simply made connecting pieces, a simple but effective liquid rocket design can be made with a modest budget easily affordable to universities and individuals. This is still a work in progress, but the RRS is committed to bringing this project to fruition. We look forward to the next engine build which will likely be in a series of builds that will ultimately lead to the RRS standard liquid rocket design.

Richard’s Solidworks model showing both propellant and pressurant tanks plumbed into the rocket body

[4]
We had a very short discussion about the RRS expanding our roster of pyro-ops. Chris Kobel of ROC presented at our August meeting and gave a lot of practical advise on this subject.

Many of our next member “class” including myself have already written their rocket resumes to describe their experience with rocketry and have begun soliciting licensed pyro-ops for recommendation letters which is not a task to be taken lightly. Beyond the RRS regular and lifetime membership, the Rocketry Organization of California (ROC) was willing to help RRS members learn and earn their recommendation letters by attending and participating at events at ROC. The Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) have also been very helpful to those of us who are aspiring to be new pyro-ops. The rocketry community is a small one and it is good to have the support of like-minded organizations to keep the membership across all societies safe, strong and active.

ROC holds monthly events on the 2nd Saturday of each month. I have been working on organizing a group of RRS members to go out to the next ROC event to get to know our smoke-and-fire sisters and brothers.

Rocketry Organization of California – Roctober event on Oct 13-14, 2018

To all of our membership interested in making this trip to the Lucerne Valley on October 13th, contact the RRS secretary. If we have a good number of people interested, we can make this a worthwhile trip. This trip would be on the Saturday immediately following the RRS meeting on that Friday night (Oct 12th). ROC will be holding an event with school kids, but if the RRS members bring their rocket resumes we may be able to have a conversation with the ROC leadership and get some advice and training. If we get a few members to ride out, I’ll contact ROC to let them know we’re coming. Please let me know by Friday, September 28th.

[IN CLOSING]
Next meeting of the RRS will be October 12th, which is always the 2nd Friday of the month. The quarterly update for the SuperDosa project will be part of the agenda as well as several items we did not cover in our agenda. All RRS members are welcome to make suggestions for discussion topics at future meetings. For those wanting to add topics, please let me know. I will post the preliminary agenda topics at the 1st of the next month on the RRS website Forum page.

As always, please keep your email and contact information up to date with the society. We’re glad to see so many new members and returning members. Even if you can’t make it to Gardena on a regular basis, just send us a line to say “hello” and tell us how you’re doing.

secretary@rrs.org