Our June meeting was held by teleconference on June 12th starting at 7:30pm as planned. Some people did not seem to get the email link with the information to call-in. As always, members are responsible for keeping their contact information current including their emails. Please contact the RRS treasurer with your updated contact information so that all active members can be on distribution.
We had over a dozen people calling in which is a fairly good turn-out under these quarantine circumstances. Some of our members actually appreciated being able to call-in rather than travel all the way to Gardena.
Chris Lujan, our treasurer, was able to set this meeting up for us. Based on the success of the last two meetings, the RRS will make teleconferences a regular part of our meetings even when we return to in-person meetings. It allows more of us to connect around our local area. Many of us miss the face to face interaction which we hope will return some day soon.
Dave Nordling and Larry Hoffing gave an update on the next flight of the hybrid rocket. A new rocket body is being made and a better means of ignition will be attempted that should more reliably sever the nitrous fill line.
Wolfram is still working on subsystem tests of his Gas Guzzler ramjet. He has rebuilt damaged parts and is conducting burner tests to verify important aspects of his design. He may not return to testing at the MTA until October 2020 when the weather is likely to be cooler.
John Krell has built a pair of custom avionics chips that can record altitude and accelerations at rapid data rates (1 kHz). They are small enough to fit in a standard alpha payload tube. Integration activities are underway. Frank has many of the recovered alphas in storage which often have their payload tubes intact for re-use after some clean up.
Keith Yoerg recently retired his latest rocket after 10 flights and achieving certification with it. He may start a new build but that remains open.
Next MTA launch date was tentatively set for July 25th. We hope to fly some alphas including one with a longer propellant tube (4-feet) in order to compare the results from John’s avionics.
Bill Inman has decided to rejoin the RRS after being away for many years. He was the builder of the Scalded Cat steam rocket and is working on a new design iteration to fly soon at the RRS MTA. A reprinting of his March 2001 article on the Scalded Cat will soon post to our website for those wanted to see this work in detail.
The next monthly meeting of the RRS will be July 10th. We are presuming this to be another teleconference only unless LA County lifts the quarantine restrictions and the Ken Nakaoka Community Center re-opens.
Waldo Stakes will be holding a memorial service for Mad Mike Hughes at 12 noon, July 18, 2020, at the 247 Cafe in Lucerne Valley, CA. Mad Mike was killed in the last flight of his steam-powered manned rocket flight outside of Amboy, CA, on February 22, 2020.
Mad Mike wasn’t a member of the RRS but he was one of our exhibitors at the 2019 Symposium last year. He had his rocket, the Juan Pollo, on display and many people had the chance to meet him. He will be missed by his family and friends including some of our membership.
The RRS held a launch event on Sunday, March 1st, 2020, at the Mojave Test Area. It was a brisk morning with steady winds that occasionally slowed enough for a safe launch.
This launch event was originally for a university static fire and a few member projects. The university had to reschedule but we had sufficient interest from our own projects so we held the event.
The weather was a concern with passing storms and rain predicted earlier in the week. But as often happens, the weather shifted for the better on launch day with winds staying low enough to launch most of our projects.
Wolfram has been working for a few years on his Gas Guzzler ramjet rocket. He is just now entering the first system flight tests to demonstrate the staging and recovery systems. He filled his ramjet with water in place of the gasoline to have a representative weight.
Wolfram was able to load his booster on to the 1515 rails with good alignment. His upper stage had some alignment problems due to using a different prototype for this initial flight. After some examinations on the pad, he pulled his rocket stages back to the Dosa building for internal adjustments to assure a clean fit between the booster and upper stage.
The next launch was Keith Yoerg’s high powered rocket, Charlie Horse. He used an I-350 Smoky Sam motor and had a dual-deployment system with a GPS tracker built in. The flight was smooth off the rails but the trajectory data seemed to show a steady wind pushing west to east. He reached an apogee of around 4000 feet. Recovery wasn’t a problem as his rocket landed just a hundred yards east of the RRS MTA.
Wolfram returned his rocket to the pad but accidentally dropped the second stage breaking a piece of the ramjet plastic cowl on the concrete below. With this significant disruption of the aerodynamic surface, he was forced to abort the flight and rework this part. He was also going to check some of the other parts in his assembly for this long-awaited first flight. It’s important to not rush a project and wait until all is ready for a successful flight.
The next flight was to be the hybrid rocket that Larry, Osvaldo and I have been working. The Contrails H222 motor was safely loaded from last month and after some improvements to the vehicle body for better parachute recovery functions, we felt we were ready.
The winds were still favorable so we proceeded with clearing the area and making our electrical connections back to the old blockhouse. With just a handful of people and the lightweight vehicle, the old blockhouse was sufficient for our operations that day.
The nitrous bottle was refilled from the prior week and the manifold was plumbed to the vehicle tank. With the opening of the nitrous bottle, remote operations could begin. The time of tanking the small 38mm H-motor tank was not precisely known, but was not expected to take very long given basic calculations of the available flow rate. As expected, the tank volume primed within 15-20 seconds. We waited a full minute as we were initially unsure of whether the full volume was filled with liquid. After spotting a jet of liquid escaping from the vehicle body vent, we were assured that the hybrid motor was ready to be ignited.
Osvaldo conducted the firing operation after a short five-count. The resistor and Pyrodex charge ignited after a slight delay for the resistor to heat up sufficiently. The motor seemed to reach full thrust quickly and leave the rail as expected from the thrust curves from this commercial motor.
The vehicle was spotted tumbling after leaving the rails leading us to believe the rocket was not properly balanced. More detailed calculations would have been beneficial, but from initial estimates and the heavier recovery system in the extended rocket body, it was believed the rocket would be stable enough.
Examination of Osvaldo’s high speed camera footage from the hybrid flight revealed the reason for the vehicle tumbling. Some of the frames show that the nitrous fill line remained attached to the rocket during launch and even after clearing the rails. The fill line did snap loose in the flight at some point, but it was supposed to completely sever at ignition. This imparted a significant torque to the vehicle leading to a tumbling and short trajectory back to ground.
Worse, in my rush to get the hybrid loaded on the rails and made ready for filling operations, I forgot to arm the recovery system. This is a classic mistake and one that I could have easily avoided.
At least, the other issues with the flight limited the distance the rocket travelled. The rocket was recovered just north of the 1010 launch rail still within the bounds of the MTA. The rocket landed on its nose breaking it and significant body tube damage was sustained. After disassembling the hybrid motor from the body, we opted to scrap the rocket body and rebuild a new one for the next flight. The fill and fire operations were successful and the equipment we built worked fine.
The Contrails H222 motor parts survived well. We were able to easily remove the motor assembly and disassembled the parts for inspection. The graphite nozzle showed very little ablation and will be reused. None of the parts had heat damage. The fuel grain didn’t exhibit much ablation as compared to the other unburned grains we had. The burn duration in flight seemed to be similar to what is shown on the thrust curve, but this should be reviewed against the flight footage.
More review of the flight footage will be necessary to better understand how the hybrid motor operated. We are considering changing the ignition method to use an electric match and maybe a shape charge that would better ignite the hybrid motor.
We are considering building a static testing rig for the hybrid motor to verify some changes we intend to try with the ignition. There will be more on this subject in later reports.
Larry Hoffing had built a custom composite solid rocket motor using a spent casing from a commercial solid motor. This simple end-burner grain also had a custom-made nozzle. Larry had suspended his experimental motor a length of metal piping threaded on our large adjustable box rails that is still undergoing refurbishment.
Unfortunately, Larry’s motor design was not successful and rapidly overpressurized scattering both end caps and propellant grain fragments across the desert floor. No fires resulted from this static firing failure and no serious damage was done to nearby structures used for this demonstration.
The last launch attempt was Keith Yoerg’s smaller model rockets using the tiny B and C motors. The winds became stronger as the day progressed and by that time sustained wind levels were too high for any launch particularly for such a small vehicle. These rockets would be saved for a later event and Keith began examining his Charlie Horse rocket and its camera footage.
It was a good day for the RRS to have a launch event exclusively for our member projects. We plan to hold more of these events for both universities and our membership very soon.
The Reaction Research Society (RRS) met on Friday, September 13, 2019. We had several new people come out to visit including the CSU Long Beach liquid rocket team. They were coming to learn more about the society and our resources at the Mojave Test Area (MTA).
The RRS had a special occasion to celebrate at the meeting which we did with pizza. The RRS now has three new licensed pyro-ops, Osvaldo Tarditti, Larry Hoffing and Dave Nordling. This will help us a lot in holding more events at the MTA.
Since we had so many new people coming to the meeting, we decided to make introductions and share some of the stories and latest projects before getting to the meeting agenda topics.
New RRS member, Wolfram Blume, came to the meeting tonight to discuss his plans to build, test and ultimately fly a gasoline fuel ram-jet called the Gas Guzzler project. He’s been working on this project since 2011 and he presented the RRS president with his test request to conduct a static fire test along with many details of his initial designs. The RRS has not tested a ramjet in many years and this will be a very interesting project as it develops.
Waldo Stakes came to the meeting to share with the society his latest progress with a steam rocket he’s been working on for Mad Mike Hughes. Waldo’s projects are always fascinating as he’s worked with a lot of different groups over the years in racing and in rocketry. He’s also been working with Compton College on the planning of their large liquid rocket. The RRS is also glad to be a part of Compton College’s ambitions to build a liquid rocket.
RRS member, Kent Schwitkis and a couple of his students from Compton College came to the society meeting. There are many bright students at Compton College interested in working with the RRS and we have already began to assist each student with tasks specific to projects their working at the college.
We decided to showcase our membership project first before beginning our agenda which was a very good idea. Bill Behenna has been hard at work on his avionics payload to be built to fly in the many RRS standard alphas we have at most of our launch events.
After calling the meeting to order and the reading of the treasury report, the RRS began our September meeting agenda.
(1) Next Launch Event at the RRS MTA with LAPD CSP and Boyle Heights
The RRS has finished with the last classroom presentation of the series. The students have painted their rockets and are ready for the final launch day, next Saturday, September 21, 2019. After propellant loading, the RRS will be ready to receive our next group to watch their handiwork take flight in the desert.
(2) RRS facility improvements
Osvaldo has been leading the task of evaluating facility improvements to the RRS. The main improvements under consideration are (1) improving our restroom facilities at the MTA and (2) replacing the old blockhouse at the MTA. Osvaldo has made some drawings of the new restroom facilities and is discussing the details with a vendor to get a quote.
In early August, our large adjustable rail launcher was damaged in a failed launch attempt of a large solid motor. Osvaldo began repairs and hopes to have the box rail system restored soon.
The RRS MTA site was also the victim of theft of many things from the George Dosa building. Security at our test site is difficult given its remote location. Several suggestions were made including adding cameras, improving our locks and doors, making opaque window inserts for the building, and simply being present at the site more often. The RRS has been the victim of theft before, but it is something that is never easy to recover.
(3) 2020 Constitutional Committee report
The committee was not able to make their report this month. Several factors have contributed to this delay over the summer. The committee will make its presentation to the society at the next meeting in October.
(4) Society votes on holding the 2020 RRS Symposium
After some discussion last month, the society decided that we will in fact hold the next RRS symposium in the Spring of 2020. Given the increasingly successful events we’ve had since 2017, and the many people who have encouraged us to keep this annual event, the administrative membership voted in favor. Frank Miuccio will again be our symposium coordinator and the RRS will be reaching out to presenters and exhibitors very soon. Our next order of business will be setting the date which is likely to be in the month of April.
(5) RRS to present at the CATIE conference at Antelope Valley College
Dr. Khalil Dajani of CSU Long Beach has invited the RRS to be one of the presenters at the Space Responsiveness Workshop and Exhibit at Antelope Valley College at the Hellenic Center in Lancaster, California. The 2019 California Aerospace Technologies Institute of Excellence will be held on Wednesday, September 18th where members from industry and the government will hear our presentation introducing the society and our capabilities at the Mojave Test Area. We hope to make some great contacts at this event and begin some new partnerships..
The RRS has focused a lot on educational and project activities, but we don’t often plan simple gatherings for fun. Larry had talked about having the RRS visit Mt. Wilson as a private group. At the meeting, we also talked about having a simple barbecue at the MTA as was done in times past. We plan to revisit this discussion again. Other members are welcome to share their ideas.
(7) RRS history project – Garboden archives
Lifetime member, George Garboden, has many boxes of papers and reports from the RRS in his possession that he would like to pass back to the society for archival. In support of the RRS history project, the society is always glad to get articles, clippings and any kind of archival materials and make them more available to our membership. Frank, Larry and I have been working on the logistics of getting a new storage location, but the most important step is finding the time to carefully make quality scans.
(8) Social media improvements
Alastair Martin announced the next pending episode of his podcast, Rocket Talk Radio. Other fellow RRS members, Dave Nordling and Richard Garcia, will take part in the next installment of the “Before SpaceX” series on September 28th. In this episode, we will be interviewing Jim French. Jim has had a long and interesting career as a rocket development engineer for the H-1 and F-1 engines at Rocketdyne in the 1950’s and later at TRW in the 1960’s with the Lunar Descent engine during the heyday of Apollo. His book “Firing a Rocket Engine” is available on Amazon.
Jim French also worked for a startup company called the American Rocket Company (AMROC) in Camarillo in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. We hope to have a great conversation and learn a lot about his experiences at this commercial space company.
(9) Memories of George Dosa
As our last order of business, we shared with the society that we lost one of our oldest and most beloved members of our society. In our long history, George Dosa, had a profound impact on the society and many of our past and present members.
The RRS adjourned our meeting after a long series of very interesting discussions. We are thankful to all for coming and we will be holding our next monthly meeting, October 11, 2019. If there are any changes or additions to make to this monthly report, please notify the RRS secretary.