USC testing at the RRS MTA – Traveler III

The University of Southern California (USC) Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL) team led by Haley Karow had a static firing of their prototype solid rocket booster at the RRS MTA on February 17, 2018. The RRS was glad to support USC on yet another advancement in their solid rocket motor program for students.

USC prepares their booster motor for testing at the RRS MTA, 2-17-2018

USC’s successful test demonstrated a 6-element bates grain solid motor with two improved features:
(1) a newly designed carbon phenolic nozzle with graphite inserts for the converging section and throat and (2) a linen phenolic and EPDM thermal protection system for the case. The motor grains were cast in Victorville at a site owned by Exquadrum.

USC Traveler III motor firing at the MTA, screen shot from Osvaldo’s camera

This full-sized motor design will power the Traveler III space-shot vehicle. The nozzle looked great after the firing, but a second nozzle will be used for the flight. The motor liner also did well. With a peak thrust of 4,864 lbf as measured by the USC horizontal thrust stand load cell, the total impulse was 41859.0 lbf-sec. Post-test inspections showed good results and the project can move forward with their flight vehicle. Ultimately, the Traveler III will attempt to reach an altitude of 400,000 feet (121.9 km) most likely from Black Rock, Nevada.

USC’s horiztonal thrust stand

The Reaction Research Society (RRS.ORG) is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit group that supports universities, high schools and other responsible private groups with both educational programs and resources for rocket testing. Now in our 75th year as a society, we hope to expand our reach to others as we grow into a new quarter century.

Contact USC RPL or the RRS for more details.
USC RPL contact information

February 2018 meeting

The RRS held its monthly meeting Friday, February 9, 2018 at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. After reading the treasury report, we proceeded with the meeting agenda as listed on the “Forum” earlier this week.

Attendees at the 9-FEB-2018 RRS meeting

The RRS was glad to welcome new student members Jack and Brayden who come from the former Chaminade High School Rocket program. The RRS will be supporting their project to launch a boosted dart ultimately to an altitude of 150,000 feet or more. This work fits nicely into the RRS goals with the SuperDosa project and Jack and Brayden have made a lot of progress already thanks to the help of their sponsors and supporters including the RRS’s own Dave Crisalli. Last year, Jack and his team had a successful motor grain test at the MTA and they are looking to build upon this success for an even larger hot-fire test. RRS as a 501(c)3 educational non-profit group is glad to support our members.

On this Friday, the RRS has started the first of five classes with our third group of students from Florence Joyner Elementary School in Watts in conjunction with the LAPD CSP program. The program will seek to schedule a tour of the California Science Center at some point and the five session program will culminate in a launch event at the RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA) on March 24, 2018. The launch date has not yet been confirmed so please look for updates on the “Forum” portion of this webpage.

On this same subject, Michael has been working with his contacts at Redondo Union High School to find a way to begin an educational program with the RRS. The RRS is glad to work with new and returning schools in our educational programs. For more details, contact the RRS events coordinator, Larry Hoffing.

On our third agenda topic, we talked about the progress made to date for the 75th anniversary RRS symposium. We have had great responses from our prior exhibitors and speakers as many are returning for this year’s event on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Our event will have speakers and exhibitors from the aerospace industry, government agencies and academia. The speakers slots have filled up fast so we hope to have our final confirmations given to us soon.

Frank has made the first flyer for this event and we encourage everyone to download a copy and share with everyone interested in attending this event covering topics of professional and amateur rocketry.

first flyer for the RRS 75th anniversary symposium

Frank has said that there is still much to do in preparing for the symposium. This event will likely be bigger than last year’s so we will really need our membership to pitch in and help make this year’s 75th anniversary a success. Weekly phone teleconferences will begin in two weeks. Frank will notify people of their assignments and we will discuss progress at these meetings.

Our fourth topic on the agenda discussed the progress I have made with the parachute recovery system I have built for an RRS standard alpha rocket. We launch many of these at our school events at the MTA and even with our membership making their own. I would like to see more of our members and high schools working with making payloads for the alpha. Given the small size of electronics these days, there are many more possibilities for flying instruments and recording data.

parachute and tethered nose cone for RRS standard alpha rocket

My time was very limited as the meeting was running late and I was only able to show the key parts of the parachute system still in build. Chris Lujan showed me some better knots for securing my nose cone and tether line to the internal bulkhead. I also showed the 3D-printed plastic umbilical port that Richard Garcia kindly built for me which will make switching on RRS alpha payload much easier if they use PVC payload tubes. I will compile more details soon and if this subject is still of interest, I can elaborate more at the March meeting.

Modified 555 timer chip with solid state relay replacing a mechanical relay. Umbilical part in the upper left.

I have also been working on a horizontal thrust stand built to test RRS standard alpha rockets. This would allow members to record thrust from the S-type load cell donated to us by Interface Force Inc. of Arizona. All of the structural members have been cut, but the adapter pieces need some changes to make a simpler connection. Thanks to Osvaldo for improving my load cell adapter design.

RRS horizontal thrust stand parts with S-type load cell

For our fifth agenda topic, Frank Miuccio, inspired by the device built by the Space and Missile Systems Heritage Center (SMC) of Los Angeles Air Force Base (LA AFB) in El Segundo, made his own little rocket air launcher. This simple tool takes an air pump to compress the sealed interior space of PVC piping behind a simple sprinkler valve.

Frank’s mini-rocket air launcher using a car-tire pump

Once inflated and everyone is at a safe distance away, the rocket is slipped over the angled launcher tube and is fired by releasing the valve and reservoir of air pressure behind it. Very simple in operation, it is quite fun to play with and we think the kids in our educational programs will think so also.

RRS treasurer, Chris Lujan, holds a 12-inch plastic rocket launched from the pump driven air launcher; Larry and Frank discuss

As the last agenda topic, Richard had mentioned that the modifications to his cryogenic methane dewar were complete and that the vessel was back at the MTA. As we were out of time, Richard can explain the details more at the next meeting in March.

The meeting adjourned but several of us watched Frank and Chris test fire the small rocket air launcher that Frank had built from Home Depot parts and a battery powered car tire pump. Despite the darkness of night, we were able to recover these small 12-inch vehicles aided by the inclusion of a blue LED in the nose. We had more than a little fun popping these little rockets as high as 100 feet.

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

Our next meeting will be Friday, March 9, 2018 at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. See you there!

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.