MTA launch event, 2018-04-07

The RRS held a launch event with the students of Florence Joyner Elementary School at the MTA on April 7th, 2018. This event was the final step in the five-week RRS program that started in February thanks to the support of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Community Safety Partnership (CSP). The students got a tour of the RRS Mojave Test Area where both amateurs and professionals can test rockets in the open space of the Mojave Desert.

Students from Flo Jo Elementary at the RRS MTA

As always, we gave a safety briefing to the students to the hazards of the desert and our testing site. Dave Crisalli was our pyro-op for the event and gave an excellent background of the exciting work we do at the RRS.

Dave Crisalli addresses the students and officers as Frank Miuccio looks on

Safety briefing inside of the George Dosa building at the RRS MTA

The tour also included a live demonstration of burning the micrograin zinc/sulfur powders in the open air. The bright yellowish flame is a vivid demonstration of the combustion process.

Live demonstration of micrograin propellant at the MTA

We also demonstrated the burning of a more common solid propellant, an ammonium perchlorate, HTPB and aluminum powder composite grain. The same constituents used in the Space Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters (SRB’s). Thanks to Larry Hoffing for making the sample grain for the test.

Sample of a composite solid propellant grain just before the demonstration.

The Flo Jo elementary class built 10 RRS standard alphas for the event. Each painted uniquely by each of the teams.

Standard alpha rockets from Flo Jo Elementary

Once everyone had the safety briefing and completed the tour, we proceed to send everyone to our safety bunker as Dave Crisalli and I loaded each rocket into our rail launcher.

Dave Crisalli and Dave Nordling load an alpha into the launching rack

Each of the rockets flew straight and fast from the rails and did not disappoint the class seeing their hard work fly off the rails in a huge yellow cloud.

wide-angle still shot from Osvaldo’s high-speed camera, 2018-04-07

An RRS alpha rocket takes off, view from the bunker

After the clean launch of all of the rockets, the kids and the LAPD ventured out to the desert to try to find each of their rockets. Flag poles were made for the occasion to mark the locations so that they could be extracted later by shovel. 7 out of 10 rockets were found and two older rockets from previous events were also found and marked. It is tough to find each rocket in the desert scrub, but with the hard work of the students it’s good to recover at least some of the parts as they can be reused with some work.

After launch, the students and their mentors march to the desert to search for their rockets

The kids were very organized and had a great time. After taking a group photo at the gate, they returned to the city. The RRS was glad to host them and hope they can come back soon. Also, thanks to the LAPD CSP program for being supporters of this project to give this experience to the hard-working students of Watts.

Flo Jo Elementary and LAPD CSP pose before the RRS MTA sign

The RRS membership stayed behind to try a few experiments. The first test was trying to finish the foot plate welds on the horizontal thrust stand I have made for static testing alpha rockets motors of similar size with S-type load cell donated to the RRS by Interface Force Inc.

Interface Inc. – Precision Load Cells

The construction of the horizontal thrust stand is nearly complete, but unfortunately the desert winds made welding of the plates impossible. This steel frame will firmly hold alpha-sized rockets for static fire testing when bolted down to concrete slab in front of the old blockhouse. As a historical note, it was a young Dave Crisalli that helped pour this slab in the late 1960’s.

Osvaldo prepares to weld the foot plates of the horizontal thrust frame at the MTA

Scribe marks were made on the plates and the assembly was taken back to the city to be completed later. Many thanks to Jim Shirley of Shirley Design and Custom Fabrication in Huntington Beach for finishing the structural welds. The integration of the load cell and final mounting to the concrete slab will take place at the next launch event where the RRS hopes to measure the thrust and impulse bit of our standard alpha rockets.

The RRS horizontal thrust stand frame is complete and ready for mounting at the MTA

Richard Garcia built his own vertical test frame to support a small steel engine case he made for a rocket-candy grain.

Richard mounts his frame to the MTA structure for his experiment.

Rocket-candy is a simple mixture of potassium nitrate and sugar. Under moderate heat, the sugar caramelizes to form a viscous but firm mixture that suspends the oxidizer and can be packed in to the paper tube cases.

Richard “cooks” the sugar and potassium nitrate under low heat of the electric hot plate.

Richard’s work was documented by RRS member, Alastair Martin, who is working on a larger documentary of the RRS classes and our members’ experimental work at the society.

Alastair Martin films the tools and process of Richard Garcia’s rocket candy production

Once the motor grains had set, they were test fired to verify the quality of the mixture. The second motor grain was loaded in the steel rocket tube mounted to the vertical stand. Results were not spectacular as the end-burner grain design didn’t create much pressure. More testing will be done to improve performance, but the steel case and nozzle were undamaged.

Richard Garcia’s steel motor case and nozzle, just before loading the motor grain

Richard’s sugar rocket motor fires securely from the vertical mounted stand

One of the newest tools invented by our president, Osvaldo Tarditti, is a new ratcheting tool that pulls the rocket straight from the ground by a simple portable frame that can be angled to get the rocket to come out straight. The tool must be operated by two people to pull the rocket body straight from the ground. The tool was successfully demonstrated and nine rockets were pulled from the ground without any of the back-breaking work of shoveling. This is an excellent advancement for the society and will be very handy in the future.

Osvaldo’s newest invention, the Rockextractor

As this is the first launch event of this 75th anniversary year of the society those of us that were at the MTA at the end of the day took a group photo by the old I-beam which has been a part of the RRS since our earliest days of rocket testing. You can see the I-beam by itself in many of the old society photos. At the new MTA site, it is an integral part of our larger test structure that has seen hundreds of uses and still going strong.

Frank Miuccio, Alastair Martin, Dave Nordling, Richard Garcia and Osvaldo Tarditti pose by the iconic RRS I-beam

The RRS will be having their next monthly meeting on Friday, April 13th. The RRS 75th anniversary symposium is also happening on Saturday, April 21st. Please come out as it will be a great occasion with speakers and exhibitors from industry, universities and other amateur rocketry groups.

July 2017 meeting

The RRS held its monthly meeting last night on July 14, 2017 at our usual spot at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, CA. We got started a little late, but we covered all of our agenda items.

We have two new members, Drew Cortopassi and Alastair Martin, joining the RRS. Both were in attendance at the meeting and we were glad to have them join us.

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Larry gave us an update on the RRS alpha build event we’re doing with the students of Jordan Downs in Watts. John Mariano gave his presentation last week and Larry has started the build event portion. This event has been sponsored by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Community Safety Partnership (CSP) which will be bringing a lot of talented kids from the inner city of Los Angeles. Local television crews filmed the event and the final day of painting of the student rockets is happening today. We hope to have the video spot on our YouTube channel very soon.

Jordan Downs build event with the RRS

LAPD CSP – About Us page

The students from Jordan Downs will launch 10 alpha rockets with one more alpha launched by LAPD. It will be a great day next Saturday, July 22nd, at the MTA.

Jordan Downs alpha rockets painted and ready

To any school or private group that would like to conduct a rocket build event with the RRS, please contact us at:
events@rrs.org

I will be launching an alpha of my own at the event with a PVC payload section. Our director of research, Richard Garcia, and RRS treasurer, Chris Lujan, were helping me with some payload issues I’m resolving.

Dave Crisalli has also been working with students at the Chaminade College Preparatory School in Chatsworth, CA. They have built a solid rocket motor to test at the MTA on the July 22nd event. Dave was a graduate of Chaminade and has been our pyro-op on many MTA launch events.

Chaminade College Preparatory School

Our discussion moved to the details of managing the upcoming launch event at our Mojave Test Area (MTA) on next Saturday, July 22nd. This is a private event, but we host these with many students, universities and private individuals with our membership.

We had discussed how the launches should be conducted as early as possible to avoid what will likely be an oppressively hot summer day for our young students. All of our invited attendees should make an extra effort to be at the MTA by 10:00AM, which means leaving the city before 7:00AM. There were also concerns related to safety once we get into launch mode. Once the safety briefing is conducted (likely around 11:00AM) and all people are moved into the observation bunker, the roads will be closed to traffic. No one will be allowed in or out until the last volley is fired as is our policy.

Attendees at the MTA are recommended to wear hats and sunscreen at all times. Bring as much ice and water as you can. And most importantly…drink this water and fluids as often as possible. Many people don’t know they have become dehydrated until after the ill-effects set in (then its too late). Drink often even if you don’t feel like it.

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I gave a short update on the SuperDosa project. We have decided to build a ballistic evaluation motor (BEM) to have the ability to conduct propellant evaluation tests. There are a few different approaches to getting accurate burn rate data, but I felt that the BEM approach would be the most beneficial despite the added complexity. Osvaldo has the plate and round stock I bought for this small but tough little test rig. Richard Garcia is working on the dust recovery and ducting to restart his graphite machining capabilities. I hope to get a few nozzle pucks made and hopefully begin testing this fall.

RRS ballistic evaluation motor design concept

More work in trajectory and performance modelling needs to be done. The details on the initial SuperDosa design are still a bit in flux. Neither Richard nor I had any progress to report on this front.

The discussion moved to propellant procurement. We are looking at acquiring some AP oxidizer which shouldn’t be a problem. The HTPB binder chemical, however, has really climbed up in cost. PBAN is another option we’re considering. Someone mentioned asphalt was used in the early days, but it’s not clear what the disadvantages are.

We had briefly discussed making rocket candy just for the initial samples to test and qualify the BEM test rig. It was decided that Chris Lujan would cook a small batch of sugar/KNO3 at the MTA and pour into some 3/4″ PVC sample cases. I hope to be able to document the process and present this in a report. This is a common mixture, but the purpose is to help more people become better at this task. Many of our members have experience in making the rocket candy mixture, but it helps to standardize the process and always watch out for safety issues.

MIT student, Sean Austin, was in attendance at the meeting. He had mentioned his university lab had built a strand-burner to test propellant samples. They had a lot of issues getting reliable test results, but he was happy to share their design with the RRS. A strand burner design is simpler to make and if the RRS has the right materials and tools, we may build a strand burner to supplement our BEM.

Richard Nakka’s rocketry page has a lot of great details on this subject of solid propellant burn rate testing methods and data collection.

strand burner
Nakka – strand burner test rig

ballistic evaluation motor
Nakka – BEM concept illustration

solid propellant, burn rate testing, in general
Nakka – burn rate testing in general

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Four members from the UCLA IREC team came to present their results from this year’s competition at Spaceport America north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The rocket launch competition is supported by universities across the country and the event is managed by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA).
2017 IREC competition – Spaceport America

I had asked UCLA to come show us the fruits of their team’s hard work done at the RRS MTA. UCLA had some issues resolved, but ran into other problems at the launch site. Heat was a factor which resulted in the payload computers not working. A great deal was learned and UCLA will surely leverage these lessons into next year’s build.

UCLA presents IREC results to the RRS

UCLA presents IREC results to the RRS

The RRS would like to thank UCLA students, Nakul Gupta, Caleb Lessard, Edward Shen and Nick Knenning for presenting. The RRS looks forward to continuing our support of UCLA and other universities as they advance their rocket projects.

The UCLA Rocket Project will conduct more cold flow testing of their liquid rocket systems at the RRS MTA at the July 22nd event, but priority will be given to the student alpha launches to conduct the events as early in the day to avoid the hottest hours at the site.

Also, in attendance at the meeting was MIT student, Sam Austin. Sam is in Los Angeles this summer on an internship with Northrop Grumman. Sam was part of the MIT team at the IREC competition and related some of his team’s results. MIT did well taking 2nd place, but as always, there are new things to learn or things to do better. Sam had indicated interest in attending the upcoming launch at the MTA. We hope he’ll become a student member of the RRS to do so.

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The RRS history project continues as our current membership has been reaching out to our founders and other members from the earliest days of the society. We hope to share some of this with our readers and members very soon. Frank had found another set of RRS newsletters from 1989-1991 which he gave to Richard Garcia, our director of research, for scanning and archiving.

As always, if anyone has any RRS or related literature that they would like to offer to be scanned for the society, please let Richard know:
research@rrs.org

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I had presented the general topic of how to generate more revenue for the society. The RRS is funded by our membership in the form of dues, donated time to support events, monetary and material donations and such. I wanted to solicit ideas about how the RRS can pursue other avenues to bring in more funds to better support the programs we have and the new programs we hope to do soon.

One classic idea is to produce RRS-logo branded things like T-shirts, coffee cups, even metal rulers. I have seen older RRS branded items in the past and although the profit margins can be thin, it’s a fine fund-raising idea to consider. John Mariano had a few other ideas for fund-raising he brought up in a previous meeting this year.

The RRS is looking at grant programs both in the private sector and with government agencies. The RRS is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit group which has had success with several schools already and we intend to expand our outreach as we find schools and organizations able to help us bring the joy of rocketry. Donations from private companies and individuals is another avenue we’ll pursue. If anyone has any specific programs or ideas in mind, please contact the RRS vice president, Frank Miuccio.
vicepresident@rrs.org

One idea I had which was accepted was to publish an issue of the RRS Astrojet newsletter on our 75th anniversary on January 7, 2018. Although the RRS has not published a paper newsletter in quite some time, it was a popular item in its day. The newsletter would be the same 12 page format used throughout our history with articles from many of our members including George James, George Dosa and others as we bring this idea home. The 75th anniversary Astrojet newsletter will only be available in print and delivered by mail for a nominal price ($10?) to help fund the RRS’s growing activities.

Another idea put forth was to attempt the rocket mail flights done in the early days of the society. More thought and discussion would be necessary to see how feasible this would be, but I liked the idea?

The RRS may look to have some corporate sponsorship of the 75th anniversary symposium if this is possible.

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Frank made the announcement of the upcoming 75th anniversary RRS symposium on April 14, 2018. This will be a public event at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center where we will have speakers from universities, government agencies and private companies.

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Frank also mentioned that he’ll be taking a trip to JPL with RRS founder, George James, later this month. Besides a tour, the RRS hopes to have a conversation with the K-12 education outreach coordinator at JPL on this visit. Frank will post an update on the website after this event.

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We adjourned late, 9:20PM, well after the 9PM closing time, but we covered a lot. If there is anything I missed or misstated, please contact me at my RRS email below.
secretary@rrs.org

For those desiring to apply to join the RRS, either as full members or as student members, download our RRS membership application form from this website and send it to the RRS by email or our post office box in Los Angeles.
president@rrs.org

Reaction Research Society
P.O. Box 90933
Los Angeles, CA, 90009-0933

Our next meeting will be August 11, 2017, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center.

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