September 2017 meeting

The RRS held our monthly meeting on September 8, 2017. We got a late start to the meeting, but I did add a simple 9-inch clock to the room at the start. This will be a useful feature in future meetings.

After the treasury report, we discussed suppliers for making our rocket parts. It was decided that we stick to local suppliers as this has been our tradition and southern California has many great options.

The conversation turned to the upcoming alpha build event with LAPD CSP. This second event with a new batch of students from Imperial Courts will run on five Friday’s starting September 15th. The launch event will take place on Saturday, October 21st.

USC RPL will be helping at the first session of the next RRS build event. USC was not able to come to this month’s meeting to give us status on their upcoming projects.

The RRS usually does demonstrations during the event like the CO2 cartridge rocket on a string to demonstrate the principle of jet propulsion. We discussed other demonstrations such as the vinegar-baking soda rocket. Further, we discussed some of the things that could be done better such as to focus less on the history of rocketry and spend more time explaining fundamental concepts from physics and science. The RRS is continually improving our program to make better presentations.

vinegar and baking soda rocket

Frank had said that USC plans to fire several motors at the MTA in the coming months. The MTA should be available for the October 21st launch. UCLA will also be working on their liquid rocket this fall.

Osvaldo showed the launch footage from the camera mounted on LAPD’s alpha. The spin rate from the camera hanging off the fin was much faster making it tough to see much but in individual frames you can make out buildings below getting smaller. The bright sun from the clear skies unfortunately obscured any view as the rocket descended. Osvaldo is working on the film footage and we should have something compiled soon.

We need to start mounting the camera internally rather than hanging it externally on the fin as has been hastily done in the past. I have been working with Alastair on such a setup inside a payload tube. The “808” keychain cameras come from a range of suppliers with more and more features including high resolution video. I’m thinking of getting a few for myself. They seem to be very robust with a long running time with the XD memory card.

There have been several other payload ideas discussed for upcoming alphas. Osvaldo and I discussed improvements to my timer circuit to go with my parachute system.

During the first LAPD CSP event with the students of Jordan Downs, a few local news crews had filmed the event including KTLA 5 and Telemundo 34. Telemundo was kind enough to give us the segment they broadcast on July 14th. It was in Spanish with Spanish subtitles so I hope we can work on making an English-subtitled version and post it on our YouTube channel.

YouTube – RRS channel

Bill Janczewski was going to work on a new design for an RRS membership card. Although the RRS does not issue membership cards to our members as they had in the past, some of our members have indicated interest. Perhaps by special request, we can have a membership card available for a nominal cost (in addition to paying your annual dues). The proceeds would go to fund the society projects. Right now, this is a task in progress. For those that are interested, let me know.

I would like to start gathering articles for the upcoming 75th anniversary newsletter. I’ve already spoken to a few of our contributors. I’d like to have all submittals by December 15th.

The anniversary newsletter will be issued January 6, 2018, and will be available in print only. The price per copy is still under discussion, but all proceeds fund the society.

Bill Claybaugh donated his solid propellant testing rig and a thrust stand to the society. We are thankful for his donation. Our director of research, Richard Garcia, is going to work with this hardware to make use of it soon at the MTA.

Claybaugh solid propellant test rig including mandrel and thrust stand

Steve Majdali was kind enough to donate a quantity of silicone oil to the society. This material is useful as a mold release compound for the solid propellant grain casting process.

As a final entry, I was able to meet with Barbara Cipperly, the widow of one of the RRS founders, John Cipperly. John passed away December 31, 2013, at his home in La Crescenta. I am working with Barbara to get a brief biography for our “History” and “Founders” tab on the RRS website. I hope to have the final version posted soon. He had several newsletters saved over the decades and the RRS was glad to accept these from the Cipperly for the society archives.

donated newsletters and literature from Barbara Cipperly

The meeting adjourned late at 9:20pm. Our next meeting will be Friday, October 13, 2017.

Frank had said that we’ll start to talk about the upcoming 75th anniversary symposium in the next meeting. Also, we’re due for an update on the SuperDosa project. I’ll be posting next month’s agenda on the forum. I would recommend all of our members go to the website “” regularly.

If there are any questions or corrections, let me know.

August 2017 meeting

The RRS met for our monthly meeting Friday, August 11th, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. We were well attended, but got a late start. After the usual reading of the treasurer’s report, we began the meeting with the first agenda topic.

Frank has been talking with several groups interested in doing alpha build events including the LAPD wanting to serve another set of students in another housing project in Watts. The Watts event at the MTA was very successful and we discussed what went well and what could be improved.

We discussed getting a shared server for running RRS members to run applications related to rocketry. Frank and Chris are looking into options but haven’t found anything yet. Many of us use cloud services to store our files, but the RRS ought to discuss data storage options that can be better accessed by our membership. This topic is on-going.

The RRS history project continues. We received a set of RRS newsletters from Bill Claybaugh (thank you, Bill!). Richard Garcia continues to scan the newsletter stacks he has. We are still interested in getting reports, newsletters and anything else relevant to our history.

Bill Claybaugh was also kind to donate one of his 3-inch nozzles with a graphite insert to the society. In time, we will receive Bill’s propellant test rig which I look forward to examining and using at the MTA.

Bill Claybaugh’s three-inch nozzle

side view of three-inch nozzle with graphite throat

The RRS has made contact with our founder, George James, and some of the other early members of the society. We hope to schedule interviews and help to document as much of our history as we can in advance of the 75th anniversary symposium, April 14, 2018. The RRS is working on a list of our officers going back through the many years to the beginning starting with George James. We appreciate the help we’ve got so far, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

The next launch event at the MTA will likely be in the latter part of September. Some of the potential events with schools will be in October. There is significant interest in the RRS having a launch event for the several members interested in launching their own alphas. Many of our new members, Alastair, Bill, Angel and now Drew, have expressed interest in launching their own alphas. Myself and Larry will likely try to put something together as I continue to work on the parachute system for the alpha.

The council will update our membership once the next launch event at the MTA can be organized and set.

We had hoped to look at the footage from the keychain camera mounted to the fin on LAPD’s alpha rocket. The camera was recovered and the data was good, but Osvaldo did not have the opportunity to edit the footage. Alastair also had some video footage he took from the 7-22-2017 Watts launch event at the MTA, but he was still editing. We decided to push this item off to next month.

We discussed timer chips and other methods of switching on payloads right at launch. I brought my wood block breadboard and worked with Richard to resolve some issues with my circuit not firing. Osvaldo built a cotter-pin based spring-loaded switch that he mounted inside a segment of the alpha payload as an example. The society continues its efforts to learn more about what works with payloads and what doesn’t. I discussed my idea to attempt a flight speed sensor with a pair of barometric pressure sensing chips. Osvaldo said he’d drill a hole in the tip of an aluminum nosecone for the stagnation port.

We adjourned late at 9:22pm. In the future, we need to watch the time spent on each agenda topic. I would suggest we bring a simple battery-powered 6-inch wall clock into the meeting room so all people can more easily keep better track of time without pulling out their phones.

The topic of issuing membership cards and developing a better system of tracking dues collections was not addressed and will also be pushed to the next monthly meeting.

Our next meeting will be Friday, September 8, 2017.

If there is anything I missed or misstated, please let me know.

MTA launch event, 2017-07-22

The RRS hosted a launch event on Saturday, July 22, 2017, with the students of Jordan Downs, sponsored by the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Community Safety Program (CSP) at our Mojave Test Area (MTA). This launch event was the final part of the educational program put on by the RRS. The event was very successful as we fired 10 student alpha rockets and one more alpha from LAPD.

RRS sign at the MTA entrance

It was a typically hot day (105 F / 41 C) for late July at our private test site the Mojave Desert, but everyone was well prepared. Some even brought umbrellas which was a great idea to stay out of the sun’s rays. The misting fan we bought from Home Depot seemed to work well in the observation bunker. Home Depot was also very kind to donate water misting bottles for this event which helped tremendously in keeping people cool. RRS treasurer, Chris Lujan, was also very well prepared for the event as he saved me with a cold water bottle just after launch. Looking after each other is what we do.

RRS VP Frank Miuccio talks with students from Jordan Downs

Larry addresses the Jordan Downs students at the MTA

Our pyro-op in charge was Dave Crisalli and he gave our safety briefing before we got started. The students were well prepared and seemed to get a lot from it. New RRS member, Alistair Martin was nice enough to film some of the briefing.

Alistair films the burn demonstration

We also gave a propellant burn demonstration after the safety briefing to give everyone an appreciation for the power of the chemicals commonly used in amateur and professional rocketry. I have a still of the sample composite grain below. I took a video of the composite burn and will have it posted on our YouTube channel very soon.

sample composite grain sitting in the cage

Larry and Osvaldo had already loaded the rockets the night before so we could get the event started as quickly as possible. The rockets were safely stored in our old blockhouse ready to go.

Each of the students had painted their rocket with a unique pattern and color scheme to better help identify them later. The photo below is from just after the build event.

Jordan Downs alpha rockets painted and ready

Dave allowed me to assist on the pyro-op duties including rail loading and connecting for firing. As promised, we worked quickly to call out each one as they were loaded in the rails. Dave and I worked very efficiently to get each one off swiftly and safely.

The LAPD rocket was the 11th one in the series. It had a few special features including a smoke tracer in the payload section and a tail-fin mounted camera.

LAPD’s alpha rocket

LAPD payload with red smoke tracker inside

LAPD’s alpha rocket, tail fin camera

The LAPD rocket was able to be recovered shortly after launch thanks to the smoke tracker. The nose cone wasn’t able to be recovered but the camera on the tail fin remained in tact. We have had good luck with one of these keychain cameras in the past. Although the camera imparts a spin on the rocket, the flight is very stable. Once the footage is downloaded, and depending on the quality, the RRS will post it on our YouTube channel. It should be a lot of fun to see (fingers crossed).

YouTube – RRS channel

The specific brand of smoke tracker used was “Enola Gaye”. Given the success of the flight, the RRS should certainly use more of this product in the future. There has been some discussion to increase the number of holes in the payload section to allow more of the smoke product to escape throughout the flight.

Dave Crisalli with the recovered LAPD rocket

Due to the summer heat, the students of Jordan Downs didn’t go downrange to search for their rockets after the launching was over. However, Frank was able to locate and recover (dig up) one from the event.

Frank in the Dosa Bldg. just before going out to search for rockets

The RRS thanks LAPD officers Acuna, Plascencia and Terrazas

The RRS is grateful to all of the parents and adults who supported the event with us. Also, the RRS is grateful to LAPD officers, Acuna, Plascencia and Terrazas, for their help in making this event a big success.

Osvaldo receives Cert of Recognition

University of Southern California (USC) and RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti, were glad to receive a certificate of recognition from L.A. City Councilman, Joe Buscaino of the 15th district for putting on this event with the students of Jordan Downs in Watts. It is with gratitude that the RRS accepts the certificate and we hope to work again with the students of Jordan Downs and other groups in the city.

As for my own rocket which would have been the 12th alpha launched, an electrical problem with the timer forced me to pass on launch. Although each part of the circuit seemed to work individually when I tested them the night before, the fully integrated system failed the demonstration at the site. Working with Richard and with some more time, I can resolve the issue, improve the design a little, and fly the parachute system in the alpha at the next launch event.

Dave’s alpha parachute deployment system, still in work

UCLA was also at the MTA to continue their work on their liquid rocket project. UCLA proceeded after the Jordan Downs launch, but had an electrical problem which prevented their scheduled cold flow testing. UCLA hopes to reset their efforts and be back at the MTA for more testing in late August.

Chris, Richard and I discussed making some rocket candy (sugar/KNO3) at the MTA loading area, but it seemed that there wasn’t enough time to get things started. With most of the resources already on hand, we’ll wait for the next event for Chris to cook a small batch of this classic amateur rocketry compound for demonstration purposes.

If any one has any pictures or video of the event that they’d like to share on the RRS website. Please send them to me at
Or comment to this posting below.

For more information on the RRS educational programs, please contact us at:

Also, if I have missed or misstated anything, please let me know. Our next monthly meeting will be August 11th at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, CA.