MTA launch event, 2019-06-01

by Mitchell Spearrin, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, UCLA

On Saturday, June 1, the Reaction Research Society (RRS) hosted the UCLA Aerospace Engineering senior design (MAE 157A) class at the Mojave Test Area (MTA) I have been teaching this class for three years which involves the design, analysis, manufacturing, testing, and finally launch of mid-power solid and hybrid rockets. Approximately 50 students attended this event at the end of the Spring Quarter of 2019 with RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti, serving as pyro-op.

UCLA students prepare their rockets in the loading bays.
UCLA students prepare their rockets for launch.

Twelve rockets were fabricated by students teams of four or five students each over a 9-week period, eleven of which were launched successfully on Saturday. The launches included nine solid composite rockets in the E and F-size classes. Two of the rocket designs involved a staged design, with retro-exhaust ignition for the second stage.

UCLA model rocket on the wooden cross rail launcher
A well-timed photograph of the UCLA model rocket leaving its rail launcher.

Two hybrid rockets using polyvinyl chloride as fuel and nitrous oxide as oxidizer were launched on the RRS 20-foot 1515 rail launcher. The hybrids were fully fabricated by students at UCLA including the propulsion systems. All rockets included payloads of altimeters, cameras, and a hard-boiled egg with the design competition aiming for altitude and reusability upon recovery.

UCLA students prepare their custom-built hybrid rocket on the RRS 20-foot rail launcher.

With the assistance of Osvaldo’s ATV, all rockets were successfully recovered, though only a few were returned with an unbroken egg.

Osvaldo Tarditti supervised the event and made down-range tracking of the UCLA rockets much easier with his all-terrain vehicle (ATV).