MTA launch event, 2018-06-02

The RRS held a launch event at our private Mojave Test Area (MTA) with the students and staff of UCLA on Saturday, June 2, 2018. The event was overseen by our pyro-op, Jim Gross, with me serving as his apprentice. It was a good day for rocket launching despite the 100 degree temperatures that day. The winds were very low and almost still at certain times.

The horizontal thrust stand was fit checked at the RRS MTA concrete slab. All footplate holes aligned with the 1/2″-13 female anchor bolt holes. The load cell blocks mated up to the adapter plates. Concern was raised about the horizontal stability “wagging” of an alpha rocket if it were fired in the adapter as is. Osvaldo started a design to create an extension on the thrust stand which will better retain the rocket from excessive side loading.

RRS horizontal thrust stand passes fit check at the MTA, new primer coating added for rust protection

UCLA was completing a quarterly course in rocketry which featured the hard work of five student teams building their own amateur rocket using commercial F-class motors of different types.

UCLA students pose at the RRS MTA on June 2, 2018

The RRS was able to inspect each one of these model rockets and ask questions of the team members about its construction and the unique aspects used in their payload and vehicle design. Each of the teams ran flight stability tests at the UCLA wind tunnel to validate their design. Each rocket was fired from a rail launcher and a commercial firing circuit under the supervision of the pyro-op.

Six rockets from five teams at UCLA on display in the group photo (6/2/2018)

Before the flights of the student rockets, a test rocket was flown to check the wind speeds. Results showed low winds so the team flights proceeded. The winds at the launch site in the desert were very low throughout most of the day.

UCLA’s demo rocket to test winds before team flights.

UCLA prepares their custom rail launcher for their model rockets

One team attempted a two-stage rocket using a D-class motor in Stage 2. Results from all rockets were largely good. All were recovered and some were able to be relaunched.

UCLA’s Team Sharky prepare their rocket “Bruce” for his maiden voyage.

Each rocket flew an egg as a payload with a parachute recovery system. Each rocket also included a commercial altimeter chip which relayed the results to display on a cellphone application. Altitudes ranged from 1600 to 2400 feet.

UCLA also was static testing a hybrid motor adapted from commercial products to a design of their own. Two vehicle systems were built and alternately tested with replaceable HTPB-based fuel grain modules. UCLA brought a few nitrous oxide tanks to replenish their oxidizer supply. All seemed to go well, but the results were not good enough to proceed with a flight test as originally scheduled.

Dr. Mitchell Spearrin and Jim Gross oversee the hybrid rocket static firing procedure at the RRS MTA, 6/2/2018

UCLA’s Anil Nair prepares the hybrid motor for static firing at the RRS MTA, 6/2/2018

UCLA’s first of three hybrid motor firings, 06-02-2018

Results from first hybrid motor firing left a white residue around the outside of the nozzle

UCLA did buy two of our RRS standard alpha rockets which were custom painted in the blue and gold colors of the UCLA Bruins. At the end of the long day, UCLA opted not to fly their two RRS standard alphas and save them for another flight. The RRS and UCLA discussed flying an altimeter chip in a vented payload tube on the next UCLA flight of the RRS alpha.

Two RRS standard alpha rockets for UCLA

The RRS already had the micrograin propellant mixture ready so we proceeded with a flight test of our own RRS alpha rocket. We had plenty of daylight left in the summer month of June. For those that stayed at the MTA into the late afternoon, the RRS did conduct a first test of a payload recovery system in a standard RRS alpha rocket. This system was built by RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti.

Jim Gross and Osvaldo Tarditti load an RRS standard alpha with parachute payload into the launch rails

An RRS alpha with its payload being installed.

Instrumented RRS alpha in the launch rack. A manual switch with red flag is used to arm the system before launch. This keeps the battery from depleting while waiting to launch.

The payload timer is started when the rocket lifts out of the launch rails and the pin is pulled out by the yellow wire tied off to the launch rails.

Despite some problems initializing the payload one the first attempt at the launch rack, the rocket was successfully reset, reloaded and flown. The deployment of a parachute from inside an RRS standard alpha rocket’s payload tube with a successful recovery was the only objective of this flight.

In the still winds, the rocket didn’t drift very far from due west and the orange parachute was very visible against the clear blue afternoon skies once it reached lower altitudes. The alpha rocket booster portion was recovered, but the lanyard holding the nosecone and payload segment tore loose on deployment and was not recovered.

Lanyard failure lost the payload and nose with the timer circuit inside, 6/2/2018

Also, the orange parachute did show signs of localized overheating and melting from the 1-gram black powder ejection charge used to deploy the parachute.

scorching of the parachute from the ejection charge; parachute was still effective

The parachute did deploy fully and significantly slowed the descent of the rocket booster. With the low winds, the rocket did not drift very far downrange and was easily recovered 50 feet from the roadside going out west from the MTA

Osvaldo kneels behind his RRS standard alpha parachute system successfully flown at the MTA on 6/2/2018

I took several photos of the assembly and loading process. Osvaldo has promised to explain the full details of his parachute system and deployment timer. The RRS will definitely reattempt parachute recovery with our alphas and hope to fly again at the next event.

As a final step, we make sure to burn off our residual propellants. Jim Gross set this up near the launch pad and used the firing system already in place at the bunker.

Pyro-op Jim Gross prepares to safely dispose of residual micrograin propellant at the RRS MTA

Residual micrograin propellant safely burns up at the end of the day

At the end of the propellant burn-off, the smoke cloud lazily lingered as it rose away from the site. Taking several minutes to do so, this was a very visual reminder of just how favorable the winds were that day.

minutes later, a spent micrograin propellant smoke cloud slowly drifts away in the low winds at the MTA

If there is anything I have missed or misstated, please let me know.
secretary@rrs.org

The next monthly meeting is this Friday, June 8th at 7:30PM. Discussion of the UCLA event and our next event with LAPD CSP will certainly be on the agenda.

MTA launch event, 2017-11-18

The RRS held a launch event with the Imperial Courts class on November 18, 2017 at our private Mojave Test Area (MTA). This launch event was the latest in a series of events we’ve had through the support of the LAPD CSP program. The event had 13 alpha rockets including 3 of these having smoke tracers in the payload section and the last one with a pair of keychain cameras on the tail. The USC Impact News crew was also in attendance to document this last event in the series with the Imperial Courts class.

Dave Crisalli was our pyro-op for this event. I was glad to assist on the loading and launching operations.

smoke tracer lead wires sticking out from the payload tube

One of the keychain cameras was only a dummy to balance the rocket. The actual camera was first thought to have been destroyed on launch only to be found a few inches into the soil when the rocket was recovered by shovel. We hope to show the footage if the data on the chip was also intact.

last alpha with the two cameras on the fins, one dummy, one actual

smashed keychain camera with XD memory chip still in place

Osvaldo tried a new method of loading of the micrograin propellant in preparing the alphas for this event. His method involved weighing out the whole propellant load and pouring it all at once in a large funnel being careful not to trap air pockets. Knocking on the side of the metal tubes with a wooden hammer is done to encourage settling then slowly lowering a heavy machined aluminum piston on a string down into the tube to gently but firmly tamp the propellant down and get a better and more consistent packing density in the tubes.

big funnel with aluminum piston on a string; new alpha loading method

The weight of the loaded alphas at the MTA before launch did show a small improvement by being slightly heavier from more propellant packed in the same tubes. The main advantage was the loading procedure was less messy than the prior method of incrementally loading the powder propellant then bouncing the bottom of the tube on a wood block. Despite the best efforts with this approach, small air pockets in the packed powder “grain” often results with packets of micrograin burping back up the tube getting on the propellant loader.

Osvaldo gives instructions on the weighing of the alphas before flight

The alphas from Imperial Courts had bright color schemes from each of the individual teams. Having each of the rockets labelled with the paper tags was very helpful in keeping track. We should continue this practice for future events.

alphas from the Imperial Courts class

I have been slowly working on a small horizontal thrust stand to incorporate the load cell transmitter donated to the RRS by Interface Inc.
Interface Inc. – Precision Load Cells

An existing concrete pad with a three anchor-bolt pattern will be used and I have the first piece which is a steel footing plate to mate up with the hole pattern. Many thanks to Matt Moffitt of CNC Specialty Machining of Huntington Beach, CA, for his craftsmanship.

anchor plate for an RRS horizontal thrust stand

The students of Chaminade High School in Chatsworth also hot-fired their 4-inch solid rocket motors of their own making. After resolving some problems with the casing, the results of the firing were good.

4-inch solid motors from Chaminade High School

We also hosted UCLA as they hot-fired their liquid rocket. They attached their propellant tanks to one of our thrust frames for a full system demonstration.

UCLA NO2 and kerosene liquid rocket being mounted for firing

UCLA makes final preparations for firing

After a lot of preparations and waiting until after sunset, UCLA’s hot-fire did not disappoint those of us who stayed into the cool hours of dusk. Their nitrous-oxide and kerosene liquid rocket fired for full duration and to what looked like great results.

UCLA fires for full duration.

RRS director of research, Richard Garcia, with his brick as a camera tripod

We thank all of the parents and the LAPD officers who made the event a success. Also, many thanks to Dave Crisalli and the RRS membership who helped with the hundreds of things that needed to be done. We look forward to the next launch event at the MTA early next year.

March 2017 meeting

We started the March 10th monthly meeting a bit late, 7:51pm. As usual, we met in Gardena at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center.

The first item was to discuss the progress of the upcoming RRS symposium to be held Saturday, April 22nd. We have confirmed several speakers and exhibitors including UCLA, USC, Caltech, CSULB, Cal Poly Pomona, Orbital-ATK, Norton Sales, Spaceport America, Mars City Design and the Aerospace Corporation. We still have a few speakers yet to confirm, but we will have a full listing which will be great for our public audience. We encourage everyone to download and share this flyer with everyone who would like to come out to the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena.

rrs symposium flyer 3 rev 1

Osvaldo surprised us all by completing the full-scale mockup of the SuperDosa boosted dart vehicle. The SuperDosa project is the RRS’s recent project to retake the amateur rocketry altitude record and rebuild many of our old capabilities from 20 years ago when the RRS held the record. This will be on display along with RRS standard alpha and beta rockets at the exhibitor hall during the symposium on April 22nd.

SuperDosa full scale mockup(1)

SuperDosa-mockup (2)

Although we’ve been having weekly teleconferences, the meeting offered the opportunity to discuss issues and address questions by all of those in attendance. Dr. Chris Zeineh of the Aerospace Corporation and four students from UCLA’s liquid bi-prop rocket team were in attendance. Frank had printed a few flyers and some of the brochures we plan to have at the symposium.

Our public relations campaign to advertise the RRS symposium is in full gear as we’re trying to get radio and TV spots in the local media market.

Frank also made an Eventbrite posting for the RRS symposium. It’s a free event so there’s no cost to register. Registering allows the RRS to gauge how big our audience might be. We’ll try to have food available at this event. I encourage everyone to register for the symposiuim at this event at the link below.

Eventbrite – RRS symposium (free to register)

John Mariano is working with his contacts at JPL to try to see if we can have the Explorer 1 satellite mockup on display as a really neat piece of space exploration history as this was the United States’ first satellite launched over 50 years ago. We hope we can bring that piece of history to the exhibition.

The Explorer 1 satellite (van Allen, Pickering, von Braun are holding it up)

The RRS has updated our Facebook page to get the word out. The link is below. Our members who are on Facebook should join this group. Anyone else is also welcome to join our Facebook page.

RRS Facebook page

The RRS will create an Instagram account soon which may make viewing our launch event photos and videos much easier. I plan to do this sometime before the next meeting in April.

The weekly teleconferences will continue in the ensuing weeks as we are less than 6 weeks out from the event, but looking to be in good shape. We hope to confirm more speakers and exhibitors very soon.

In other non-symposium related news, the RRS history project is progressing. I made contact with the Caltech Library to acquire electronic copies of three Astro-Jet newsletters from 1945 and 1946 which is when the RRS was known as the “Glendale Rocket Society”. We hope to get these and any other Astro-Jet newsletters added to our library archives soon.

Also, Richard Garcia acquired a nice Marotta solenoid valve from Norton Sales which could come in handy for future projects. The RRS still has plans to build a liquid propellant testing rig in the future.

solenoid valve, Marrotta

Norton Sales – North Hollywood, CA

I am also steadily working on making a simple thrust stand for firing alpha and beta rockets in the near future using the load cell kindly provided by our friends at Interface Force in Arizona.

Interface Force – Load Cells and more

We have rescheduled the March 18th launch event to a week later, March 25th. The girls academic leadership academy (GALA) will be launching four alphas. Larry and I may have another alpha or a beta for this event. We have invited UCLA to attend the launch to show them the Mojave Test Area (MTA) in advance of the two events they will be having with us.

UCLA has confirmed that they would like to conduct a hot-fire test series at the MTA for their IREC rocket systems on April 29th. There will be hybrid and solid motors tests. We also hope to have a few other people conduct launches or hot-firings.

Also, on June 3rd, UCLA will have a launch event at the RRS MTA to conclude the undergraduate class featuring two RRS standard alphas and two RRS standard betas and a set of ten smaller model rockets.

Lastly, USC had a very successful launch of their Fathom II rocket at Spaceport America last week. I invited USC to come and share in their results, but they are still compiling a posting for their website (link below). Also, this Friday they were properly celebrating their success. We hope to read their results soon. Also they have posted photos on their Instagram feed.

USC RPL website

USC RPL – Instagram feed

Our next meeting will be Friday, April 14th. This will be the last one before the symposium (April 22nd). I encourage all of our presenters and exhibitors to come out for this meeting to give you the opportunity to review the space and ask any last minute questions beforehand. Frank Miuccio and I are available anytime to answer questions by phone or email, but sometimes it’s best to walk the space in person.

Let me know if I missed anything or if anything posted here needs correction.
secretary@rrs.org