MTA launch event, 2019-07-13

by Dave Nordling, Secretary, RRS.ORG


The RRS was glad to have another launch event at our Mojave Test Area (MTA) on Saturday, July 13th. Our event this time was with Operation Progress in Watts. Thanks to our partnership with the LAPD CSP, we are able to fly nine alphas and a beta rocket at this event. It was to be a typically hot July day in the Mojave, but the winds were still through the morning picking up a little as the afternoon went on.

The RRS thrust stand structure flying Old Glory with the nine alphas (left) and the larger beta rocket (right) waiting for launch.

This was my first time as the event pyro-op. New member, Kent Schwitkis of Compton College and Waldo Stakes assisted me with the operations as we gave our young rocketeers a great view of their hard work.

Waldo Stakes in the old blockhouse as we prepare for firing of the next alpha rocket from the box rails.

As the LAPD CSP arrived at the RRS MTA, the society prepared to give a site tour to the students followed by our safety briefing.

The students of Operation Progress take some shelter and hydrate under the cover of the George Dosa building.

Our sample propellant burn demonstration gave the students a visual indication of what would be to come with the propellant driving their custom painted rockets into the blue sky. With the briefing and demonstrations complete, the students took shelter in the observation bunker.

RRS members, Kent Schwitkis and Dave Nordling loading an alpha for Operation Progress

One of the interesting features I noticed with this set of alphas was the use of modelling clay at the nozzle to hold back the micrograin propellant. This proved to be an equally effective method of holding back the propellant when the rocket is in firing position as the typical phenolic thin disks we commonly use.

The electric match lead wires emerging from a wad of modelling clay used to hold back the micrograin powdered propellant. The hole seen in this photo was smoothed over by a gentle brush of the finger. The method proved to be very effective.
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)
Kent holding the second to last alpha in the set. This one has a special feature added on the fin. A whistle.
An alpha streaks away almost perfectly straight in the nearly still winds.

One of the alpha rockets was outfitted with a whistle on one of its fin. Although imparting a spin during flight, the alphas tend to remain somewhat stable in flight. The results from this flight was somewhat disappointing as the whistle could not be clearly heard in either ascent or descent before impact.

Whistle attached to the fin of an RRS standard alpha to provide an audible trace of its flight

Our last rocket for Compton College was the larger RRS standard beta rocket. This two-inch diameter powerful vehicle made its impressive mark on the launch pad as it tore into the sky. After the launch, we took break for lunch. With the day growing hotter by the hour, our partners with the LAPD CSP and Operation Progress bid the MTA and the RRS farewell as they returned to the city.

Still capture of the beta flight from Frank Miuccio’s cell phone video footage from the bunker.

Following lunch, our second group at the event was a team from Compton College made up of Prof. Kent Schwitkis and Brian Johnson and their students. The Compton Comet was a standard alpha rocket outfitted with an instrumentation package and a parachute.

RRS welcomes Compton College at the MTA
The team discusses the assembly and operation of the payload in the Compton Comet.

New RRS member, Professor Kent Schwitkis got his first experience with loading the micrograin propellant in the Compton Comet at our loading area. This is a rite of passage for many of our new members. Although old and grossly inefficient, the zinc and sulfur powder propellant combination offers a simple and powerful combination to lift rockets in a yellow rushing plume.

After loading the propellant tube, the team begins their final assembly by mating the payload to the coupler.
The Compton Comet nearly complete with one more joint to connect.

The Compton Comet was loaded by the team into the alpha launch rails. All of us retreated to the concrete bunker for firing.

The team puts their hands on the rocket one last time before going to the pad.
Loading the Compton Comet into the RRS alpha launch rails. The payload arming flag flowing in the breeze.

The Compton Comet parachute somehow failed to deploy. The ballistic return of the rocket meant extraction by the time-honored method of shoveling. The Compton College team showed tremendous fortitude in the scorching 110 degree weather. The fruits of their labor was the return of the instrumented payload including the data chip inside.

Recovery of the Compton Comet by shovel.

Initial results showed that data was taken throughout the flight. The results are being reviewed by Compton College to be reported later to the society.

This was a very successful launch day at the RRS MTA and the society was glad to support the Operation Progress and Compton College student teams at our Mojave Test Area. For more information on similar rocket building programs with the RRS, contact our events coordinator, Larry Hoffing.

events@rrs.org

For all inquiries about using the RRS MTA, contact the RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti

president@rrs.org


July 2019 meeting

Dave Nordling, RRS Secretary


The RRS held their monthly meeting on July 12, 2019, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. We had a very large turnout with over 26 people coming in to see the three different presentations we had and catch up on the latest news.

After our reading of the treasury report, we had a special announcement of the induction of five new administrative members to the RRS. Our society is growing and this is in large part to the great participation we’ve been having and the dedication of the many talented people at the RRS.

Larry Hoffing gave us a short summary of the UCLA Rockets project he supervised at the RRS MTA. This Wednesday, July 10th, event was the first since the pair of earthquakes that rattled the nearby town of Ridgecrest in the Mojave. The RRS is happy to report none of our structures had any significant damage and the MTA is very much ready to operate.

We next discussed the upcoming launch event at the MTA tomorrow with Operation Progress in Watts with the LAPD CSP. We’ll have several alphas and a beta launch. We also plan to have an alpha with a parachute recovery system put together by new member, Kent Schwitkis and his friend Brian.

RRS vice president, Frank Miuccio, has started a new educational program this week with the students of Boyle Heights. There will be 10 teams launching their rockets from the MTA in September.

RRS alpha outfitted with a 36-inch parachute
Two alpha payload tubes with the nose cone and couplers installed. Reused parts from recovered alpha rockets.

Our first presenter was Kent Schwitkis who brought several of his students from Compton College to our Friday night meeting. Kent is a member of the Sierra Club and Ski Patrol and has many years of experience with wilderness survival and first aid. His presentation outlined the important of planning for many kinds of potential emergencies. One of the important results from this discussion was the need for the RRS to form a safety committee to begin preparing emergency plans and establish contact with the regional authorities in preparing to handle serious emergencies if the need would ever arise.

Kent Schwitkis and Waldo Stakes before the July 2019 meeting

The second presenter we had at the meeting was Sam Austin, a senior at MIT. Sam presented his two-stage solid rocket design to reach the von Karman line.

Sam Austin (right) presents his booster and second stage design for his solid rocket

Sam also detailed the kerosene-LOX liquid rocket design that was test-fired at FAR in January 2019. Although the test was short (3 seconds), his results were impressive and his injector survived intact..

Sam’s liquid rocket injector which was modified for 1500 lbf of thrust

The last presentation was by RRS members, Jack Oswald and Cooper Eastwood. They have been steadily improving their solid motor design and have fabricated their improved motor based on prior tests. Their goal is to reach the 50,000 foot altitude limit at the RRS MTA on July 20th. His “50 for 50” rocket is 12 feet tall and 5-inches in diameter built entirely from scratch. The launch is to be timed with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Jack and Cooper detail the progress they’ve made and their solid motor ready for flight from the RRS MTA on July 20th.

The solid rocket holds 30 lbm of APCP propellant with an estimated burn time of 3 to 4 seconds generating an impulse of 7000 lbf-sec. The rocket fully loaded is 84 lbm and should reach a peak acceleration of 30 G’s and a burnout velocity of Mach 2.5 as it reaches 50,000 feet.

A 100-foot drogue streamer will deploy from the recovery system followed by a 9-foot Apollo 11 replica parachute at 2000 feet. The flight events are driven by an upgraded classic flight computer from Eggtimer and an RRC3 dual deployment system from MissileWorks. The von Karman nosecone is 3D printed and the aluminum fin can was rolled onto the aluminum body to be painted in polished black and white pattern of the Apollo 11 vehicle.

The RRS looks forward to the successful flights of Sam and Jack’s rocket from FAR and the RRS MTA, respectively. Both will be on the 50th anniversary of mankind’s greatest achievement on July 20th.

If there are any questions or corrections, please contact the RRS secretary. The next meeting of the RRS will be August 9, 2019.

May 2018 meeting

The RRS held our monthly meeting on May 11, 2018 at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center. We were well attended, but got a late start. After the reading of the treasury report, we started with the discussion of the agenda items. We were happy to be visited by Wilbur and Mel Owens and Harry Reid of the Compton area. They heard of our work with schools and have interest in rocketry projects. We hope to form some kind of partnership to help support like-minded Los Angeles area groups.

RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti starts the May 2018 meeting

May 2018 meeting of the RRS gets underway

First on the agenda was discussing the results of the 75th anniversary symposium. We had a lot of great feedback and built a lot of good relationships with industry, universities, schools and private groups at the all-day event. We also discussed some of the lessons learned from the symposium and what worked well and what could have been done better. The RRS is very grateful to the many people who supported the RRS in making this event possible. The discussion then turned to discuss if the RRS will hold a 2019 symposium around the same time next year. After some initial discussion, the vote was postponed to next month’s meeting.

Discussion of the 2018 RRS symposium

Second on the agenda was the upcoming launch event at the MTA on June 2nd with UCLA. UCLA will launch 10 of their commercial rocket motors as the final part of the quarterly class that Dr. Spearrin has with his students. The RRS is glad to host the event and we also plan on launching at least two of our standard alpha rockets at the event.

Alpha rocket iso view

Also, the RRS horizontal thrust stand is nearly complete as Osvaldo and I confirmed the fit of the final load cell parts to the frame. Osvaldo brought the frame and I brought the load cell to the meeting. Everything looks ready to go for final fit up on the concrete pad at the MTA at the June 2nd launch event. Having the ability to make actual thrust curve measurements on the RRS standard alpha rockets will be very valuable to better understand the performance of this classic rocket. Much of what is known of the flight characteristics is based on old knowledge which could be somewhat theoretical. Getting new data will be a step in the right direction to reducing uncertainty.

RRS horizontal thrust stand sits on a dolly at the May 2018 meeting

payload tube adapter, S-type load cell and thrust stand adapter; fit check is complete

After some discussion of scheduling other possible launch events at the RRS MTA with Cal Poly Pomona and USC, we moved on to the next agenda item.

The third topic on the agenda was about the next educational event that the RRS will support with our partners in the LAPD CSP program. This summer program will be with Operation Progress in Watts. The first session will kick off on June 15th and the final launch event is planned for July 7, 2018.

Operation Progress – Los Angeles

The fourth topic on the agenda was regarding the RRS pyrotechnic operators manual that I am compiling for the society. The RRS uses licensed pyro-ops at our events and we are on a mission to expand our roster to better support the growing activities at the MTA. Osvaldo, Richard and I have begun the process of getting endorsement letters from our fellow pyro-ops and when our applications to the state of California’s Fire Marshall office are complete and received, we will take and pass the exam to become licensed. Having a society manual to capture this knowledge is not only useful to train new pyro-ops but it is beneficial for all of our society to have simple access to this important information.

RRS pyro-op manual and training guide

The fifth topic on the agenda was a discussion of RRS payloads. I have been pushing our society membership to think about and design payloads for the many RRS standard alpha rockets we launch. Although the payload tubes are very small (1.60″ inner diameter), there are many opportunities for flying ever-shrinking sensors in these payload volumes.

Larry brought a few commercially available sensor packages that he hopes to fly in beta rockets. Some of these devices are simple and powerful which have been used in high-powered model rocketry with a lot of success. Payloads such as these will certainly work well in RRS rockets as well. Beta rockets tend to be expensive, so it would be nice to have those that fit inside the alpha payload tubes (1.600″ OD or about 1-1/8″ square).

most payloads are too big for the alpha payload tubes; force-fitting doesn’t help

Example of pre-fabricated instrumentation package; clean, simple, but often too big

I have designed an in-line second stage for an RRS standard alpha. Osvaldo was kind enough to machine the interstage and second stage pieces that I described in last month’s meeting post. The second stage would have a solid motor poured into a PVC casing that fits within the standard alpha aluminum payload tube. The pieces fit very well together which is very encouraging. I took the interstage part home with me to integrate the umbilical port and wiring and work up the delay timer for the upper stage igniter.

RRS standard alpha interstage and second stage motor casing

The final topic on the agenda was an idea that Osvaldo had for more educational program at the RRS. The RRS has gotten to know many fine speakers in areas of professional and amateur rocketry. In the past, we have invited speakers at our meetings, but we often don’t have an appropriate amount of time to listen and discuss these topics at length. The idea put forth is that the RRS would hold Saturday morning presentations to our interested membership. The idea was well received and approved by the society. A list of speakers is being built and Osvaldo will try to schedule the first presentation in what we hope will become a long series. More details will be coming in future announcements.

One last topic wedged in as we were finishing was that the RRS will be attending the Two-Bit Circus event in Hawthorne, California, next Saturday, May 19, 2018. The Two-Bit Circus is a high-tech STEAM-based amusement park that started in downtown Los Angeles and is growing to include more areas of the city. The RRS is glad to be a part of it. The link to the event is below.

Two Bit Circus – Hawthorne 19-MAY-2018

The RRS will have a booth at the Two-Bit Circus and will be bringing our air launcher for small paper rockets. Frank built a new air launcher that’s a little cheaper, but just as powerful and fun to try. The RRS will have it available for demonstration near the basketball courts at the event.

Frank’s T-shaped air launcher

The RRS meeting concluded late at 9:25pm. We are grateful to the Ken Nakaoka Community Center for letting us stay beyond the 9pm closing time of the center. The RRS must try to begin our meetings on time so we can finish on time.

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

The next monthly meeting of the RRS will be June 8, 2018. Please join us.