November 2019 meeting

by Dave Nordling, Secretary, Reaction Research Society


The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held it’s monthly meeting on November 8, 2019 at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, California. The society had a full agenda plus our annual nominations for the executive council. Frank Miuccio attempted to establish a teleconference at the meeting to connect our director of research, Richard Garcia, and an outside organization that wanted to address the society. This teleconferencing was successful and the society will consider having more of these to help bring in more participants on special topics.

[1] Treasurer’s report on membership and dues status

The RRS treasurer is conducting a review of our membership roster to not only update our records with the many new members that have joined us this year, but also to determine the dues status for each. Like in all non-profit organizations, regular annual dues payment is essential to keeping the society funded for the many projects we do and are planning. Upgrades at the MTA are also impacted if our membership does not keep their dues payments current.

Chris’s report was not ready at this month’s meeting, but he will be soon notifying some of our delinquent members that they need to keep their dues paid to remain in active status. It is the duty of all RRS members to keep their contact information current with the RRS treasurer. The society can not be responsible for missing communications if our members do not do their part by making communication possible. Also, members who are not current in their dues payment risk losing their active status with the society.

treasurer@rrs.org

I have always paid my dues to the society on January 1st of each new year. This greatly simplifies the process and I need no reminder to do so. Membership dues ($40 USD per year) to the society can be paid through the “Donate” button on the RRS.ORG website which links to Paypal.

We remind all of our donors and those paying dues in this manner to include your name in the “Notes” section along with the purpose of your donation. Without including your name, the RRS can not tell who has paid their dues.

The RRS.ORG website has more information on this subject. For any questions, please contact the RRS treasurer.

[2] Update on the next RRS MTA launch event with LAPD CSP and 99th Street Elementary School

Frank, Larry and Osvaldo are in the middle of another class, this time with 99th Street Elementary in partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Community Safety Partnership (CSP). The class is going well and the final launch event is still planned for Saturday, December 7, 2019.

At this same launch event, we are also planning to host the University of Southern California’s (USC) Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL) with the launch of their latest solid motor powered rocket. USC has been making continuing progress even after their landmark flight to be the first university-built rocket to break the von Karman line into space.

[3] Preparations for the 2020 RRS symposium

With the society approving the symposium for our fourth year in a row, Frank is working with the Ken Nakaoka Community Center to establish the date. Tentatively, the 2020 RRS symposium will be held Saturday, March 28, 2020. The society has decided to try to hold the symposium earlier in the year to avoid the onset of the summer heat which makes the event very uncomfortable in the absence of climate control at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center.

Future site of the 2020 RRS symposium

More information on this subject will be posted as it develops. Our symposium coordinator for the 2020 event will again be our society vice president, Frank Miuccio.

vicepresident@rrs.org

[4] RRS solid propellant making classes at the MTA

The RRS has been approached by an outside organization about conducting solid propellant motor making classes. Many years ago, the RRS held a few of these events which became very popular. The RRS has not yet decided if we will restart these classes, but a group is examining the possibility and will report back to the society on the viability of such a project.

composite grain, before and after

[5] 2020 Constitutional Committee progress report

pending… carried over from October 2019 meeting report

[6] Annual elections for the RRS executive council

As required by our Constitution, the RRS appoints an election chairman to oversee and execute the process of nominations and balloting for each of the four executive council offices for new terms starting in the new calendar year. Larry Hoffing, again, agreed to be our election chairman for this cycle.

Nominations were held and were open to our administrative membership. Nominations were received and our election chairman will be sending out ballots by email. This is another good example of why all members should keep their contact information current and remain in active status with the society. Balloting will be closed prior to the next monthly meeting in December and the results announced at that meeting.

[7] CSFM committee on amateur rocketry

Last month, the RRS and Mark Holthaus of the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) met to discuss a list of proposed changes to the California State Fire Marshal’s (CSFM) definitions that govern amateur rocketry. This small group was intended to be made from active amateur rocketry groups around California to help advise the CSFM subcommittee on changes that would help improve regulation of amateur rocketry and make needed clarifications to help all groups continue to operate safely and legally.

from left to right, Mark Holthaus (Treasurer of FAR), Osvaldo Tarditti (RRS president), Larry Hoffing (RRS events coordinator), Dave Nordling (RRS secretary) meet to discuss proposed definition changes to CSFM laws governing amateur rocketry, 10/15/2019

The RRS and FAR held a second meeting at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center which included David Reese of the Rocketry Organization of California (ROC). ROC members, Chris Kobel and David Reese have been very helpful in providing helpful improvements to how the certain classes of rocketry are defined.

This amateur rocketry committee will be presenting their collective suggestions to the Fire Marshal in early December 2019. The RRS, FAR, ROC and the rest of the amateur rocketry groups in California are glad to assist the CSFM office in making these suggested updates.

[8] Social media updates

There was no report from Alastair Martin and/or Bill Janczewski this month for social media improvements for the Reaction Research Society. We hope to have more to discuss in the next month on this regular topic. As always, members are welcome to offer their advice and proposals to either or both of our media coordinators.

Alastair and I did have a conversation about expanding our following on Instagram. We will continue to show the highlights of our events and the people involved, but I hope to bring more technical content which seems to be our primary source of interest.

See the RRS on Instagram: reactionresearchsociety

Alastair and his production company, Production Tribe LLC, has created yet another podcast in the “Before SpaceX” series with special guest, rocket propulsion expert, author and RRS member, James R. “Jim” French. RRS secretary, Dave Nordling, and RRS director of research, Richard Garcia, supported this excellent discussion about the American Rocket Company (AMROC), a space start-up company in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The show is still in editing and will be posted very soon his website.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rocket-talk-radio/id1474556513

[9] Compton Comet STEM club formation and program

Several students from the Compton College STEM club attended the November meeting of the RRS along with their advisor and fellow RRS member, Kent Schwitkis. Jamie Alvarez, the STEM club president was in attendance. The Compton Comet is the project name for the liquid rocket projects that the Compton College team is working on. There are about 20 students in the group and the RRS is glad to support this team and the other university teams looking to compete or at least expand their range of practical skills.

The Compton Comet team has been holding meetings at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM) at the Compton/Woodley airport. They are planning a few trips to inspect launch and additional hardware assembly sites and make a report back to the RRS at the December 2019 meeting. RRS member, Waldo Stakes, has also been an important part of this program.

The STEM club is having another Estes rocket competition later this month. The first of these events was very successful. Part of the experience is getting practice with the simpler rockets and using OpenRocket simulation software to make and verify predictions.

IN CLOSING

RRS members, Frank Miuccio, Alastair Martin and Kent Schwitkis contributed to this report. The next RRS meeting will be December 13, 2019. If there are any corrections or additions to make for the monthly report, please contact the RRS secretary.

secretary@rrs.org


In Memoriam: Brandy (Robert “Bob”) Bruce-Sharp (1953-2019)

by Larry Hoffing, Events Coordinator, Reaction Research Society and Korey Kline (contributing)


In January 2019, Brandy (Robert “Bob”) Bruce-Sharp passed away. As reported by Mark Clark and Tripoli, Brandy went quickly from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the BALLS 28 launch this past September, Brandy and wife Abbie’s ashes were launched and spread in an Aerotech M1939 rocket.

from left to right; Robin Meredith, Jim Bornwell, Jane (Brandy’s sister), Mark Clark, Gary Rosenfield

Bob was my friend and fellow student at Los Angeles (Robert H. Goddard) Pierce College rocket club that I founded in the early 1970’s. Around this time we met a high school kid named Korey Kline, he was only fifteen at the time but already a veteran shop mechanic. His high school rocket club, inspired by the Pierce club, found a Korean War five-inch diameter HVAR rocket at a vacant military recruiting office.

Bob Bruce, Michael Gill and Larry Hoffing of the Robert H. Goddard Rocket Society of Pierce College in Los Angeles
Bob Bruce and Larry Hoffing stand at the launch rail for a row of model rockets in the 1970’s

We proceeded to convert it to a zinc-sulfur rocket which required bolting some ports of the multiport nozzle shut, adding fins, and a payload section- I think Bob’s mother sewed the parachute. I did most of the machining in the school’s metal shop while some of the welding students added the fins. I remember hauling the thing, which weighed about 40 lbs unloaded, for a show-and-tell presentation at the Pacific Rocket Society (PRS) which met at the (now defunct) Northrop Institute of Technology in El Segundo.  B. J. Humphreys was the PRS president at that time.

B.J. Humphreys, past president of the Pacific Rocket Society and builder/pilot of the first rocket-powered wheelchair
Bob Bruce and Larry Hoffing in September 1972

Bob named the rocket “Bifrost” (pronounced “BIF-roast”) which is the old Norse term for the rainbow bridge to Asgard.  Our mission was to fly Bifrost at the Mojave Test Area (MTA) near the town of Cantil, CA, where the RRS, FAR and Polaris Inc. (under the direction of Dave Crisalli) currently test. In those days the bunker was covered with telephone poles that had been trucked out by RRS member John Mariano and his cousin in the 1960’s.  There’s a pile of them still laying at the MTA to this day! Access to the site was by dune buggy. The yellow blockhouse with its ballistic glass windows still stands at the RRS MTA.

This sets the scene for the launch of the missile on a wooden home-built Bruce rack – 3 aluminum fins had been welded onto a cowling over the casing as we hadn’t realized the launch racks were built for four-fin rockets (Hint: let your new members know about the launch rack configuration ahead of time). The PRS had most of the pyro-op’s at that time.  The PRS pyro-op in charge was afraid we’d blow up the rocket and surrounding area so he made us fill the casing half way with sand. It must have weighed 80 lbs.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ignition! The rocket lifted off, flew a short distance, and crashed. The failure to go the distance was attributed to the multi nozzle ports, we didn’t bolt enough of them shut to build pressure. There is a photo of it flying, I gave it to my machine shop professor, and unfortunately don’t have a copy.

Bob was a consummate modeler and draftsman. He won top prize from Estes in 1972 for his remote control Space Shuttle which was a thing of beauty.

Bob Bruce wins first prize in the Estes rocket modelling competition for his space shuttle design

Bob started a rocket kit company with Korey in the mid 1970’s called California Model Rockets, a precursor to large/high power rocketry. One of my biggest regrets in life is not joining them in this endeavor. Bob and I had previously invented the largest model rocket in the world we called “The Wopper” . The California State Fire Marshal rules at the time was that model rockets had a weight limit of 1 lbm including the motor, so designing it was no easy task. We got the brilliant idea one day of enclosing foam rings and horizontal balsa slats with construction paper to create giant tubes. The biggest F-sized motor at the time was F-100’s made by Flight Systems Inc. The large model rocket flew spectacularly to about 300 feet.

Bob relocated to Arizona sometime in the 1980’s to pursue drafting, and afterward I lost touch with him. However, my memories are vivid of us mixing and testing “Blue Knight” candy fuel (sugar motors), and launching model rockets at Half (Hof) Mile Square in Fountain Valley, CA (a former air ship site) with the Westchester YMCA Rocket Club. Hof Mile was a trip. Wheeled sail cars raced around on the landing strip as we launched rockets. We’d even have to pick up the gate keys from the local base commander. It was here while looking for a rocket in the tumbleweed that I stumbled upon a huge, beautiful red fox when the area was still wild back then.

Korey remembers Bob as his earliest mentor for rocketry. “By example he taught me to think outside the box!” Korey says he was only fifteen when he met us and we (and his mother) had to drive him to the rocket club meetings. Bob also introduced Korey to B. J. Humphreys of the PRS and Gary Rosenfield at the RRS.

One project we all worked on together was building the Hang Loose Bi-Plane, a one-man glider made of bamboo, wood, wire, & plastic sheeting. We cut and bent bamboo spars for the airfoil wings at Korey’s house over his mom’s gas stove. The glider had around a 14-foot wingspan and a 12-foot rudder.  It was Korey that drew the short straw to fly first. With Korey hanging in the center and the two of us at the wing tips we took off running from the top of a hill in Granada Hills. Korey lifted off about 10 feet in the air and started sailing down towards a school fence at the bottom where he bailed out before hitting.

Another thing we did that I can mention now was flying model rockets out of Korey’s in ground swimming pool. We sealed the motor and electric igniter with wax and lowered the rocket and launch pad to the bottom of the pool with the controller on deck. All I can say is that a sea launched rocket is pretty cool when it breaks the surface!

There were many interesting things we did with Bob and we remember him dearly. He loved his muscle car too, I remember other drivers on the 405 Freeway coming along side trying to race us, but Bob wasn’t a speeder, just a tinkerer. I often wonder what became of that car.

Mark Clark further reports on the Tripoli members forum:

“Brandy [aka Bob] started flying rockets in the 1960’s and at Miles Square Park and very early Lucerne launches. Getting into high power in the late 1980’s, he had moved to the Phoenix area and was a founding member of Arizona High Power Rocketry Association (AHPRA).

Brandy started Sonic Systems that locally sold reloads and nationally 7 1/2″ sized mosquito-type nosecones. Those who saw the ads in High Powered Rocketry (HPR) magazine will remember them. Brandy was also involved with the BALLS launch for the 18 years AHPRA was involved and a frequent poster to these forums. Brandy was a great friend for nearly 30 years.”

www.ahpra.com

www.ballslaunch.com

Brandy “Bob” Bruce-Sharp at the BALLS 25 launch with his up-scaled Centuri Enerjet 2650 rocket

August 2019 meeting

by Dave Nordling, Secretary, RRS


The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held its monthly meeting on Friday, August 9, 2019, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. We were glad to welcome a new member to the society, Drew Sherman. Frank mentioned that the latest educational event with LAPD CSP was going well and that we can expect the next launch event to take place on Saturday, September 21st.

Drew and Arthur Cortopassi attend the August 2019 meeting of the RRS

We began our meeting with the call to order and reading of the treasury report. This August meeting would try to catch up on topics intended for past meetings.

[1] MTA launch events since the last meeting

The first topic on the agenda was discussion of the recent launch events held at the MTA since our last meeting. The RRS hosted Operation Progress at the MTA on July 13th. The launch report for this last event with the LAPD CSP program has already been posted.

UCLA held its second of two high school rocket launch events at the RRS MTA on July 31st. This was supported by Osvaldo Tarditti and Larry Hoffing as the six teams flew and recovered egg payloads using model rockets with “G” sized commercial motors. The event was a great benefit to the young participants and a welcome change of pace as the RRS welcomes model rocketry and amateur rocketry alike.

UCLA supports high school rocketry, the RRS was glad to host two events at the MTA in July 2019.

RRS members, Jack Oswald and Cooper Eastwood, had a launch event at the RRS MTA on August 3rd, delayed 2 weeks from the original July 20th date. The “50 for 50” rocket was built to reach 50,000 feet on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Jack’s large solid motor was impressive as he and his family worked hard at the event to get his rocket ready for flight.

Jack’s mom carefully folds and stows the streamer payload which would be the first deployment after the booster reaches apogee somewhere near 50,000 feet. The Oswald family was a big part of making this flight possible and the vehicle integration went quite smoothly even in the August summer heat of the Mojave Desert.

A last minute inclusion was a radio tracking package made by Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) member, Joe Conway. Joe was kind enough to allow his tracker to fly in Jack’s rocket as his device was not operational. Our fellow amateur rocketry enthusiasts at FAR came over to assist in the launch and the RRS was glad to have their participation.

Jack’s rocket weighed in at over 82 lbs with 30 lbs of AP composite propellant in four Bates grains within his booster. With a team of four to six people, the booster and instrumented payload section were assembled and loaded into the rails.

Cooper Eastwood, Jack Oswald and Prof. Barsoum Kasparian (holding the booster igniter) inside the George Dosa building at the RRS MTA

Unfortunately, the “50 for 50” rocket flight was a failure and the booster exploded shortly after ignition. Based on the film footage, ignition of the motor was achieved and the rocket lifted about two to three feet within the rail before an over-pressure event ruptured the booster and destroyed a great deal of the launch rails. No one was injured in the firing, but there was a large amount of clean-up to be done. We were very thankful to all of our attendees for their attention to safety and assistance in carefully gathering for disposal of the unburned propellant scattered from the violent end of this rocket.

The 50 for 50 rocket just after ignition and lift-off. This is the last frame before the booster disappears into a cloud of debris and smoke shattering the launch rails into a twisted mess.

Given the extensive damage to the rails, refurbishment will be costly. The RRS is already assessing plans to replace the necessary parts to restore this large adjustable rail launcher very soon.

Initial frame taken from the observation bunker as the “50 for 50” booster shatters in the rails throwing the payload upward with the streamer and parachute coming out

Jack is preparing a report of his entire build processes and some theories regarding what happened and what could be done better. This report will be submitted to our membership, but Jack will be unable to present his findings in person as he will be leaving for his freshman year at MIT. Even in failure, it’s important to keep good records. The RRS is a scientific society which insists on good record-keeping and sharing knowledge to make each project better than the last.

It was an amazing effort by a group so young. They had great support from many people and sponsoring organizations who donated money and resources to completing their rocket for this test. The RRS was proud to help our members achieve a great learning experience and in time, try again.

John Newman of FAR standing next to the damaged rail launcher examines an unburned grain fragment from the “50 for 50” booster.

Going back to the MTA launch event of July 13, Brian Johnson was able to present a summary of Kent Schwitkis’ trajectory analysis of the Compton Comet alpha rocket flown that day at the MTA event for Operation Progress and LAPD CSP. Kent did a thorough analysis of the optically measured positions of the alpha as it left the rails within the view of the footage taken. Using the video footage taken of their alpha fired from the RRS MTA box rail, careful scale measurement of key landmarks in the background, the software program can make reasonable estimates of the position, velocity and acceleration of the rocket as it is seen and timed frame by frame in the video.

Brian Johnson goes over the trajectory analysis based on video footage of the July 13 flight of the Compton alpha rocket. Kent Schwitkis performed this analysis using a physics software package which provided reasonably good results given the number of potential difficulties in using an optical measurement approach.
The trajectory data plotted in Excel showed a clean acceleration pattern which matched expectations from past testing of the alpha.

The optical measurement approach provided some direct confirmation about the starting acceleration (95 G’s) and burnout speed (200 m/sec) of the RRS standard alpha flown that day. Kent Schwitkis’ method has great potential. The best course of action would be to conduct further tests of this kind to get a larger data set to confirm the statistical accuracy and variation between similar alpha rockets flown. The society will have this opportunity at the next event planned for September 21st.

[2] RRS standard liquid and the TAM project

Richard Garcia, our director of research, has created a prototype design for a simple liquid rocket that after some initial trial and error could become a standard project at the RRS much like the alpha and beta have become for micrograin solid propellant. Richard has created a materials list and the society is in the process of acquiring the necessary items and will begin construction of the initial prototype. For now, it is too early to say what this standard design will look like, but as many past members have built their own liquid rockets over the years, the RRS can draw upon a sizable base of past knowledge to create a modest liquid rocket that is both powerful and practical for future members to try.

I have been working with a small group at the Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM) at the Compton Airport. This project has a simple goal of creating a ground testing system to hot-fire a surplus LR-101 vernier motor. TAM has acquired a few of these kerosene and liquid oxygen LR-101 motors which have internal cooling passages and are made for long duration firings. Although the engine is already made, building the necessary regulated pressurization system and valves will be the primary challenge. This work can easily benefit other liquid rocket projects.

[3] RRS social media improvements

This is a regular agenda topic to be discussed at each meeting with the goal of finding ways to improve our presence in social media platforms and on the internet in general. Bill and Alastair, our two media coordinators, were both absent at this meeting so this topic will return next month as planned.

We’ve had a few new posts on our Instagram feed with recent events. Bill Behenna recommended that on flyers for future RRS events, the addition of a QR code to link back to our official webpage or other important information is something we should do.

[4] Pyrotechnic operating licensing at the RRS

The RRS has been working with CALFIRE on having more of our membership becoming licensed pyrotechnic operators to better enhance our operations and foster amateur rocketry in general. Osvaldo Tarditti, Larry Hoffing and myself have all been working through the licensing process. We encourage more of our membership to spend the time to prepare their applications and gather letters of recommendation necessary to begin the process. This will be a slow process, but as more pyro-op’s at the RRS become available, more able our society will be to hold events and support other rocketry groups in their projects.

[5] New RRS alpha payloads

The RRS holds many launch events throughout the year with Los Angeles area schools thanks to our partnership with the LAPD CSP. These events have from six to twelve alpha rockets flown from the RRS MTA at the conclusion of each program but they have empty payload tubes. This represents a great opportunity to fly more payloads.

John Krell has been working on an instrumentation package that can record high accelerations, barometric pressure and capture high speed data all in a compact package that fits in the tiny confines of an RRS standard alpha rocket. There are many commercially available instrumentation packages for model rockets which have larger plastic bodies Given the smaller internal diameter of an RRS standard alpha rocket, many of these great devices simply do not fit. John’s design seeks to make use of the latest instrumentation chips all in a long thin compact package ready for use in the RRS alpha. With luck, his device should be ready for flight at the next RRS MTA launch on September 21, 2019.

John Krell shows his latest breadboard model of his alpha instrumentation package.

SImilarly, Brian Johnson, in partnership with Kent Schwitkis and Compton College, has been working on an instrumentation payload of their own design for the RRS standard alpha. The first flight of his payload on July 13, 2019, was not successful as it failed to start recording. Brian has worked to improve the design, but the fundamental principles were sound. A second flight of this design at our next launch event at the MTA on September 21, 2019, should prove to be successful.

Brian Johnson’s alpha payload designed to fit inside the aluminum nosecone of an RRS standard alpha.

[6] Discussion of the next RRS symposium

The RRS opened discussion about the possibility of holding another symposium in the next calendar year, 2020. Previously, the society had decided not to hold another symposium after 2019 until two years later for both reasons of cost and resources necessary to conduct the event. While the society has not formally decided whether or not to have a 2020 RRS Symposium, the executive council did decide to study the matter further based on continued success and enthusiasm by past attending organizations.

The RRS will make a decision on this matter before the next meeting. If the RRS does decide to proceed, we must begin preparations in the latter part of the year to allow sufficient time to contact participants giving them time to prepare for a symposium in the spring as was done since our 2017 RRS symposium. Further, full engagement of our membership will be critical to keep this string of successes going strong.

IN CLOSING

As the meeting adjourned, RRS member, Mohammed Daya showed us the two model rocket bodies he purchased at a Northrop-Grumman swap meet recently. These were built by a retired rocketeer who wanted his hobby to go to another enthusiast.

Mohammed Daya shows Osvaldo Tarditti and Wilbur Owens the two model rocket bodies he bought at a swap meet. F and G type commercial motors look to be the right size.

As these two rockets only need some minor repairs and suitably sized commercial motors to be installed, we hope Mohammed will be able to launch them from the MTA on September 21.


The RRS will hold our next meeting on September 13, 2019. We plan on discussing three very important subjects:

(1) RRS MTA facility improvement plans including a new restroom facility, a new blockhouse and replacement of the large box rails damaged in the August 3, 2019, launch attempt.

(2) Discuss the initial draft of the updated Constitution as presented to our attending membership by the 2020 RRS Constitutional Committee.

(3) RRS decision on the next symposium.


If there are any questions, please contact the RRS secretary.

secretary@rrs.org