January 2019 meeting

The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held our first monthly meeting of the new year, Friday, January 11, 2019. We had a good turnout and a couple visitors from Compton High School. We thank Daisy Guevara and Jonathan Martinez for coming out to the RRS.

January 2019 meeting
January 2019 meeting welcomes our guests and new members.

The RRS has student memberships available to those interested in becoming involved in our amateur rocketry society. To join as a student member, under 18, you must have your parent or guardian approval. Joining the RRS is the same as those seeking associate membership. The RRS website has a “Forms” tab where you can download our PDF membership application. Student membership at the RRS is $20/year. Regular membership is $40/year.

On the subject of membership dues, the RRS gives a reminder to all of our membership that you should keep your dues payments current. Like many in the society, I renew my membership at the start of the new year. The “Donate” button on the RRS website leads to PayPal where you can pay your membership dues. Please add “Member Dues” and your name to the notes. Others may make payment to the RRS president.

president@rrs.org

We also took time to welcome our new RRS members, Dmitri Timohovich and Waldo Stakes.

Dmitri Timohovich at the January 2019
Dmitri Timohovich at the January 2019 RRS meeting
Waldo Stakes at the December 2018 meeting

With the customary reading of the treasury report, we began the agenda.

(1) Pyrotechnic operators in rocketry

The first topic was about the RRS members that are working on attaining their pyrotechnic operator (pyro-op) license for rocketry. The California Fire Marshall’s office governs the licensing of different classes of pyro-op for theater, movies and amateur rocketry. The RRS has been on a campaign to expand our roster of pyro-op’s to both improve the knowledge of the subject as our membership and number of events annually grows.

Dmitri has a lot of professional experience in pyrotechnics and a lot of practical advice for applicants. Making copies of all your application documentation including your letters of recommendation is very important. He also shared some of his insight in how to best work with the California Fire Marshall’s office.

(2) RRS social media

Our second topic was to talk about the RRS improving our social media presence. The Reaction Research Society has an Instagram account, a Facebook page and our YouTube channel, but we can always use more content. As the RRS embarks on more projects, we will have good stories to share. As both of our Media Officers, Bill Janczewski and Alastair Martin were away for the meeting, we’ll return to this topic at the February meeting.

(3) Spaceport L.A.

Larry Hoffing, our events coordinator, spoke about the RRS becoming more involved with Spaceport LA. He has been in contact with Curtis Iwata and has had some discussions with the RRS joining a future Spaceport LA event. Spaceport LA is a group of Spaceport LA has attended the RRS symposium in the past. We hope to have them be one of our exhibitors at the 2019 RRS symposium on April 27th.

(4) MTA facility improvements

We had a good discussion of potential facility improvements at the RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA). The addition of the road sign at the first gate to the RRS MTA gives us a better way to welcome our guests. Our metal arch road sign at the MTA site entrance is also holding up nicely for two decades and still looking great.

Improvements such as upgrading our restroom facilities and the central blockhouse are under detailed discussion. Osvaldo, our society president, has been leading this effort getting estimates and making a proposal for the society to review. It will be substantial investment in our facilities, but certainly well worth it.

Other MTA improvements such as replacing a damaged panel on the thrust stand structure. This steel plate panel was substantially deformed many years ago from a static test explosion. The goal would be to cut out the old panel and weld in a replacement while maintaining the positional accuracy to the overall design as best as possible.

We also discussed a project to run an electrical wiring trench between the observation bunker and the RRS alpha rail launcher will make conducting our school events easier to do. The cost does not look to be too prohibitive and the RRS may be able to get the conduit and panel materials donated.

We also talked about how to improve the mounting pad commonly used by our university rocketry groups over the years. The concrete slab has several male anchor bolts that protrude from the concrete causing a serious tripping hazard. They are also not in a regular pattern which other groups could use. One solution is to cut away and grind down all male anchor bolts and install custom fitting trench plate with a pre-drilled and tapped bolt pattern on a regular grid pattern. This will be easier in the long run for several groups to bring their thrust stand hardware without having to match machine hole patterns by being present at our site.

(5) 2019 RRS Symposium

Frank, the RRS symposium coordinator and society vice president, talked about the preparations that have begun for the 2019 RRS symposium. Invitations to potential speakers have began to be sent out. We didn’t have a lot of time to get into the specific assignments, but we will be talking a lot more about this subject at the February meeting. Frank has made our first flyer for the 2019 RRS symposium.

2019 RRS symposium flyer #1, JAN-12-2019
Our first flyer for the 2019 RRS symposium on April 27

(6) RRS Constitutional Committee

The topic of forming an RRS Constitutional Committee had to be tabled for the next meeting. This is an important subject that will be addressed in further detail with our membership.

(7) Rocket Talk Radio podcast

Likewise, the RRS participation in the Rocket Talk Radio podcast project had to be tabled for the next meeting. Rocket Talk Radio is a project by Alastair Martin’s company, Production Tribe LLC.

RRS member and owner of Production Tribe LLC at his studio in Hollywood, California

(8) SuperDosa project quarterly update

Quarterly update for the SuperDosa project was limited. Osvaldo had reported that Jack Oswald’s next ballastic test motor is nearly complete and that his RRS project team will be conducting test series to better characterize his solid propellant mixture. Jack has also made changes to his first prototype motor fired in June 2018.

(9) Next RRS meeting at the EAA 96 hangar

About once a year, the RRS (some years) has its monthly meeting in a new location.  In 2019, the RRS has found a new meeting location for the February 8th meeting. RRS members, Xavier Marshall and Wilbur Owens are members of the Experimental Aircraft Association. Chapter 96 of the EAA is located at the Compton Airport. Xavier had offered the RRS the use of the EAA 96 hangar’s offices, so the RRS will hold our February 8, 2019 meeting at the same time, 7:30pm. This is only a temporary change for February only just to allow our membership to visit the EAA organization and tour their facilities.

Xavier will provide more details on how our members can get access at the Compton Airport. I will share these details on this website at about 2 weeks prior to the event.

(X1)  Celebrity Coffee

Long-time RRS member, John Mariano, paid us a visit to the January meeting. John has been busy with his new business venture, Celebrity Coffee. His business will be a local coffeeshop featuring music and a warm environment to his customers. We hope to visit his shop soon.

(X2) Next LAPD CSP event

The RRS is getting ready to start another school event through the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Community Safety Partnership (CSP). With the looming Los Angeles teacher’s strike, the start date could get moved. We plan to hold the final event of this series at the RRS MTA as usual. This launch date would likely be middle to late March. More details to be coming soon.

(IN CLOSING)

We adjourned well past the Ken Nakaoka Community Center closing time of 9:00PM. Our next meeting will be on Friday, February 8, 2019 at 7:30pm.

Again, please note that this February 2019 meeting will be held at the Compton Airport at the EAA 96 hangar. Please arrive between 7:00pm and 7:30pm as the EAA must let our attendees in through the Compton Airport gates.

Also, please note that this is not a permanent change of location as we will hold our March 2019 meeting back at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena.

If there are any questions about the topics covered in the January 2019 meeting, please contact the RRS secretary

secretary@rrs.org

October 2018 meeting

The RRS met for our monthly meeting on Friday, October 12, 2018, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. As usual, we got started by calling the meeting to order and reading the treasury report. We had a big agenda but covered most of the topics.

[X1]
Richard Garcia wasn’t able to join us at the October meeting. He wanted to report that he has made some design improvements to the RRS standard liquid rocket. He’s finished upgrading his engine design code to be able to analyze a blowdown engine (pressure-fed from the tanks). He also will soon have drawings for a thrust chamber design.

With some luck, I hope he’ll be back into testing at the MTA sometime soon next year.

[X2]
Electro Tech Machining (ETM) in Long Beach, California, specializes in graphite stock, graphite parts and Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM). They are experts and have been a loyal supporter of amateur rocketry groups such as UCLA and USC. The Reaction Research Society is happy to endorse them as they have been a great support to our society member’s projects as well.

Electro Tech Machining – Long Beach, contact information

Contact Cathy Braunsdorf at Electro Tech Machining.

Electro Tech Machining
2000 W. Gaylord Avenue
Long Beach, CA, 90813
(562) 436-9281

Electro Tech Machining in Long Beach, the graphite specialists

Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) – Wikipedia article

I stopped in this week to pick up some round stock for making more graphite nozzle pucks for the ballastic evaluation motor (BEM) that is nearing completion. Graphite makes an excellent high temperature material for nozzle throats or any low ablation surfaces. We have used graphite inserts into reclaimed alpha and beta nozzles over the years at the RRS. Our society members have used graphite throats in their larger solid motor tested at the RRS MTA back in June 2018.

Plastic nozzle puck used for scale against the graphite round stock acquired by the RRS from Electro Tech Machining in Long Beach, CA

Moving into the meeting agenda, we shifted the order a little, but I have kept the numbering the same:

[1]
The latest educational event at Weigand Elementary school in Watts is going very well. The LAPD CSP program continues to help sponsor the event and we get great excitement from the kids. This Friday was the fifth of six educational events where they get to assemble the empty rockets. Osvaldo, Larry and Frank were on hand to help with the build process. The kids are really enjoying the process of learning and painting the team rockets will done in the last session before going out to launch at the RRS’s private testing site, the Mojave Test Area (MTA).

Two of our young participants show their assembled RRS alpha rocket at Weigand Elementary, Frank Miuccio in the background at the right

[2]
The next launch event at the RRS MTA will be the final step in the RRS’s educational program for Weigand Elementary school. We have this scheduled for October 27th and we hope to have cooler weather than in prior events now that the summer has passed. We have nine alphas from Weigand Elementary and three more alphas from our new membership, Wilbur Owens, Xavier Marshall and Michael Lunny.

Xavier Marshall looks over his first RRS alpha, welcome to the club!

[3]
I gave my quarterly briefing on the SuperDosa project at the October meeting. This time, I organized my thoughts and ideas into a presentation to give the RRS a general overview of the project and where we are so far.

Largely, I wanted to reiterate the project’s overall goals to many of the new members who have joined the RRS since the project’s inception in January 2017. The RRS intends to retake the amateur rocketry altitude record and in the process reopen our ability to make larger solid rocket motors and expand our reach both in our own community and literally with payloads ultimately flying above the atmosphere.

SuperDosa quarterly report, Oct-2018

I also acknowledged the recent progress of some of our new members formerly of the Chaminade Rocketry Club. Also, USC had a launch attempt with their Traveller III rocket, part of their Spaceshot Initiative. Unfortunately, instrumentation was not functioning but the flight looked to be nearly perfect. I hope USC will come present their recent accomplishments at a future RRS meeting.

Materials acquisition and some discussion about how to proceed with the propellant burn rate testing were the highlights of the discussion. More progress needs to be made in a few areas for completing the first prototype:

(a) Complete the design of all parts for the first prototype (6-inch booster)

(b) Begin prototyping instrumented dart payloads to practice flying and recovering these while getting good data. Making these devices work under the tight and unforgiving conditions that they must.

(c) More work in parachute recovery

(d) Estimating friction heat loads and heat mitigation strategies for the payload

Much of this prototyping work can be done at the MTA by flying smaller subscale vehicles and testing subsystems to prove they can work. More importantly, these tests give the society practice for the large vehicle testing which will reclaim the altitude record for the RRS.

The response to the SuperDosa project’s progress was very constructive and many new ideas were offered. I’m thankful to Frank, Steve Majdali, Larry, Osvaldo, Bill Behenna, Drew and Xavier for their inputs. I have taken notes and given actions to other members who are willing to help advance key areas of the project. Unfortunately, this topic was to be the last of the evening as my presentation easily exceeded the 20 minutes I intended.

The next quarterly report for the SuperDosa project will be January 11, 2019, and I hope to report a great deal of progress.

[4]
We had a last minute addition to the agenda, with Steve Majdali talking about black powder rockets and some very nice black powder rocket making tools he acquired while on travel. Black powder rockets are a classic form of amateur rocketry and involve many techniques that are broadly useful in other areas such as composite grain motors.

Steve Majdali shows the RRS his metal spindle for a cored grain type of 3-inch black powder rocket

Steve gave us a lot of great information specific to black powder making, pressing and a wealth of other practical information. Based on this new avenue of research, I felt the RRS would benefit more if Steve discussed this topic in more length in a stand-alone article soon to be published here on the RRS.ORG website.

[5]
The RRS has been in contact with the Additive Rocket Corporation (ARC) of San Diego. They are a startup company in San Diego with the goal of making high performance rocket motors using their novel design methodologies and 3D metal printing equipment. Discussions are still underway and thus there wasn’t much to tell. ARC was an exhibitor at the 75th anniversary symposium this year in April.

Additive Rocket Corporation (ARC) of San Diego at the 75th anniversary RRS symposium

[6]
In my discussions with ARC, they were kind enough to offer to 3D print a simple small liquid rocket chamber I designed. Prices are not cheap, but this futuristic manufacturing technique offers a great deal of complexity that is not easily nor cheaply replicated by traditional means. I have been in discussions with ARC and hope to have more to present at the next RRS meeting.

125 lbf thrust chamber design, uncooled; prototype for the RRS standard liquid project

[7]
Alastair Martin could not join us at October’s meeting. I was going to have him discuss the current topics of interest at the recent 21st Annual Mars Society Convention held this summer. Alastair is very involved with the Mars Society and the RRS.

Alastair will be at the November RRS meeting so we’ll put this topic on the next agenda.

[8]
New RRS members, Wilbur Owens and Xavier Marshall, are active with the Experimental Aircraft Association, chapter #96, at the Compton Airport in the Los Angeles area. EAA-96 is a like-minded group of enthusiasts centered on experimental aircraft. The EAA-96 has hangar space and a range of machining tools offered to their members.

Experimental Aircraft Association, Spirit of 96

Xavier had mentioned at the last meeting that the EAA would love to host a visit by the RRS. Accepting the EAA’s invitation, the RRS has scheduled a visit to the EAA in Compton on November 3rd at 10:00AM. The EAA will give an hour tour of their facilities and projects. We hope to foster a strong relationship between the EAA and the RRS.

Talk with Xavier Marshall, Wilbur Owens, the RRS president, vice president or secretary for details.

Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) hangar
1017 W. Alondra Blvd.
Compton, CA, 90220
(310) 612-2751

One of the key points of discussion at this visit will be to discuss how the RRS and EAA can help each other or participant in joint projects. The RRS is interested in using the EAA hangar facilities if they are available. Annual membership at the EAA is $40 to the EAA national society and $40 more to the local chapter at the Compton Airport. As I understand but must confirm, with EAA-96 chapter membership, RRS membership can have access to the machining tools for building rocketry parts for those of us without facilities in our own homes.

Xavier had also mentioned that hangar storage was often very cost-effective which could be a service that the RRS could use as we look to expand our shop capabilities to our membership.

EAA Chapter 96 hangar, Compton Airport

The EAA hangar is just straight east and not very far from our regular meeting location in Gardena at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center just north of Artesia Blvd. (CA-Hwy 91). The address is above.

[9]
Osvaldo’s recent successful design of an alpha parachute recovery system was not able to be covered. We may expand this topic into a fully illustrated RRS.ORG article if we can not get this topic on next month’s agenda. This has been a quiet success and definitely worthy of exhibition to our membership.

[10]
Jerry Fuller of Aerospace Corporation had indicated interest in building and testing a larger subscale prototype of his liquid-infused hybrid motor grain. Aerospace had earlier this year successfully demonstrated a smaller prototype in flight at the RRS MTA. In choosing the next larger design, he has selected a common model rocketry size (98 mm) just under 4-inches which will allow him to use commercially available rocket body parts. Jerry is active with our friends at Rocketry Organization of California (ROC).

At this time, he is still working on the design until resources can be allocated. The RRS has invited him to present his results and the new prototype he has in mind. The RRS is happy to support private groups with a testing area and a community of amateur enthusiasts happy to assist.

[11]
The RRS had discussed having a small group of our membership go out to the next ROC event which is held the 2nd Saturday of the month. Unfortunately, neither I nor Drew were able to go this month. With the Friday night rains falling on the city, it might not bode well for the event at the Lucerne Valley as they must operate on the dry lake bed.

We are looking to coming out to the November ROC event in the Lucerne Valley and hope we can bring other RRS memmbers with us. In particular, some of our members are interested in getting more practical experience through the NAR or Tripoli prefect at ROC. Moreover, some of the RRS membership is seeking experience and support as we acquire letters of recommendation for the California pyro-op licensing in rocketry.

[12]
Saturday seminars have not yet been scheduled, but the RRS is still committed to offering an extended time period for fuller discussions by invited speakers.

[+] RRS member, Jim French, is a speaker of which we would be very excited to have. Jim was a development engineer at the famed Santa Susanna Field Laboratory here in Los Angeles during the development of the reliable and powerful H-1 engine and the injector for the massive F-1 engine. Later, he worked at TRW on the reliable, hypergolic fueled, Apollo Descent engine at TRW at their San Juan Capistrano testing site (now defunct). His book, “Firing a Rocket Engine” is available on Amazon and it is a great read.

Amazon.com – James A. French, Firing a Rocket Engine

[+] Reaction Research Society founder, George James, is another speaker we have been wanting to have. His founding work with his other organization, the Rocket Research Institute (RRI) was a great topic he covered only briefly at the 75th anniversary symposium in April.

[+] Rocketdyne retiree and materials expert, John Halczuk, is another potential speaker on the subject of his extensive research of the V-2 rocket. He gave an excellent talk last year at California State University in Northridge, on history of the V-2’s development and deployment. The V-2 guided many design decisions still used in modern rocketry today in both the United States and particularly in the former Soviet Union.

We were not able to discuss this topic in detail, but more information will be forthcoming, hopefully in the form of an announcement of our first Saturday seminar at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center on a Saturday morning.

[13]
The next RRS symposium date in 2019 will be set soon. Based on the powerful success of the 2018 event, the RRS has decided to further the tradition one more year. We hope to have an even better mixture of universities, private companies and government agencies.

Date to be announced in November, the RRS will hold the 2019 symposium at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena

There was no time to formally raise the subject, but it was decided by the council members present at the October meeting that the 2019 RRS symposium date will be formally set by an offline discussion and the date officially announced at the next RRS meeting on November 9, 2018.

[IN CLOSING]
The next meeting of the RRS will be November 9th at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena.

We will most certainly discuss the results of the MTA launch event scheduled for Saturday, October 27, 2018. I will build the agenda starting at the end of the month. Please contact the RRS secretary for ideas and information on meeting topics.

secretary@rrs.org

As per our constitution, the RRS will hold its annual nominations of officers for the next calendar year 2019 at the November 9, 2018 meeting. Voting by the administrative membership will take place thereafter and managed by our election chairman. Results will be announced at the next meeting on December 14, 2018.

Thank you for reading.

—- —-

MTA launch event, 2018-07-21

The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held a launch event at our private Mojave Test Area (MTA) on Saturday, July 21, 2018. As I came into the site in the morning, I snapped a picture our front gate and the rough location which will be the site of our new sign to arrive very soon.

Follow that car. Turn left to go to the RRS.

Jim Gross was our pyro-op for the event. Many of us arrived early so Jim and the rest of the RRS had time to review the projects we wanted to hot-fire and fly if possible that day. Also, it was new members’, Michael Lunny and Bill Behenna’s first trip to the MTA. I think there is no better way to sell our membership on the benefits of the RRS than your first trip to the MTA. It worked for me!

Jim Gross, our pyro-op for the day

We were glad to host another group of students from the Watts area schools with the support of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Community Safety Partnership (CSP). This has become known as the “Rockets in the Projects” program.

LAPD CSP on Facebook

It was a challenge to hold this event in July in the Mojave desert, but the kids and staff seemed to withstand the 100-degree heat quite well with lots of water and bringing ice. We gave our safety briefing to everyone and explained the do’s and don’t’s for the event. RRS member, Matt Tarditti, was there helping with getting people shuttled around to the places necessary including moving our pyro-op, Jim, and his apprentice, (me) Dave Nordling, back and forth between the bunker and the alpha launch rails. Every step adds up in the heat and it’s wise to work as efficiently as you can. The heat ultimately got to me and I had to take a pause into the air conditioning of my truck. Despite my best efforts in hydration, the Mojave summer was still overwhelming. It is a feeling that many RRS members know all too well at some point in their time with the society at the MTA.

Matt was kind of enough to continue to assist Jim to complete the launch series with the alphas. Even, Jim Gross, who has been a resident of the high desert for many years, was having a tough time in the high temperatures and very low winds of that day. We had extremely low winds which made for great rocket launching weather, however with the building clouds above holding in a lot of the heat of the day, it was a real challenge for everyone to fight the stifling heat. The RRS conducts launch and test events at the MTA year-round, but some months are harder than others.

Matt Tarditti and Jim Gross under the hot July sun at the MTA

The LAPD CSP team does a great job in preparing these kids in the weeks ahead before this event. Often, this is many of the kids’ first trip into the Mojave desert. The stark beauty of the landscape hides the subtle dangers of snakes, spiders and the ever-present risk of heat stroke (even at 10:00 AM!). The RRS educational program is both fun and informative and through preparation everyone can make things safe. The kids were quite ready for the final event in the RRS educational program which is seeing their painted and assembled RRS standard alpha rockets take flight.

Michael Lunny, Frank Miuccio and Larry Hoffing stand among the students during the safety briefing at the George Dosa building

Our first goal of the event was to get the students’ rockets in the air so that those less experienced in the desert heat can go on home once the last one was complete. We had seven standard alphas to be launched, all painted by the students as their way to personalize their team’s flight. As always, the RRS reminds our classes that painting the bodies is nice, but since they return to the ground without a parachute, painting the fins in a bright and observable color matters the most when trying to find them on the desert floor. You’ll only have the tail fins sticking out of the ground when you find your rocket.

Seven alphas in the rack from Watts, plus Larry’s customized alpha with the wires sticking out of the payload tube

The kids paid careful attention to the time of flight which gives some data as to how well packed the alphas were. Two stopwatch measurements were made on each of the seven alpha flights. Impact was not heard on the seventh flight, so no data was taken. The results are somewhat consistent between the two readings and ranged between 36 and 39 seconds.

Time of flight measurements on six of the seven alphas flown on 07-21-2018

Ideal time of flight for an RRS standard alpha is thought to be between 35 and 42 seconds. This would indicate that Osvaldo’s rapid micrograin loading system is doing well to properly pack the propellant leading to good results.

Still shot from Michael Lunny’s video of the RRS standard alpha taking off

After the sequential launch of all seven alphas, it was unanimously decided not to let the kids hunt for their rockets downrange. The LAPD CSP team and the Watts kids went home after taking a picture under our arched sign. RRS member, Michael Lunny, shot a great video of one of the alpha launches from the bunker. I hope to get it posted to the RRS YouTube channel. We have a few micrograin rocket flights on YouTube, but we hope to add more content there soon. You’ll notice our name is not fully spelled out due to the old character limit when the account was made.

ReactionResearchSoc

Reaction Research Society on YouTube

After the Rockets in the Projects, this left the rest of the RRS membership to attempt the other projects we had ready for this launch day.

Richard Garcia brought his home-built rocket that is adapted for the sugar-KNO3 motor he tested at the 2018-06-02 event. He made three motors, one as a simple end-burner, the other two were cored. The plan was to fire conduct a static firing or two with his test motors and if all looked good fly the third motor in the rocket from the RRS rail launcher. “Rocket candy” as it is also called in amateur rocketry has been getting more popular at the RRS.

Richard Garcia stands in the assembly area by his golden rocket built for his custom sugar motor

Richard’s end-burner grain, 2018-07-21

Richard’s nozzle for his custom sugar motor

Richard’s two cored grains, sugar-KNO3 motors, 2018-07-21

Richard brought back his vertical static fire stand that bolts to the larger RRS frame. Although his thrust stand is not outfitted with a load cell (yet), it does give him the opportunity to safely secure his test motors and visually compare the results and time the burns.

Richard Garcia’s sugar motor held down to his vertical thrust stand for static fire

Larry Hoffing made a parachute system in his RRS standard alpha. His system was a little different from Osvaldo’s as he required a second firing line to light a delayed fuse for the parachute deployment system he put in. His son, Max, was there to help get things ready for flight as we included Larry and Osvaldo’s alphas into the launch sequence. Larry’s goal was to explore an older method of timing the deployment of his parachute by use of cannon fuse.

Larry’s alpha payload system being made ready for flight, 2018-07-21

Also, Larry had attached a signalling whistle on one of the fins. The ancient Chinese used to mount whistles on their rockets of war to strike fear in the hearts of their enemies as the rockets would scream to their target. It was Larry’s intent to add the element of sound not only for an impressive screeching launch off the rails, but also for better tracking of the rocket’s final descent to the ground. Although having a single whistle mounted to just one fin will impart a spin to the alpha, the flight will still be stable as proven on similar alpha flights. In the recent past, we have had success flying a larger, single keychain camera on the outside of a single fin while maintaining good flight stability despite the nauseating rapid spin seen in the footage from these externally mounted cameras.

Larry’s alpha with a whistle mechanically fastened to a single fin, 2018-07-21

Osvaldo inspects Larry’s alpha rocket in the launch rails with the second firing line connected for the fused payload timer

Unfortunately, Larry’s alpha had a problem at launch with the failure to light the micrograin rocket. Also, with this delay it was apparent that the parachute payload deployed way too early. The goal was to fire at 20 seconds in the flight and the fuse seemed to go at only 2 seconds popping the payload tube while the rocket stayed on the alpha rack. The two systems had to fire at nearly the same time but one system failed entirely and other went off too early.

After exploring all other failure modes with the firing circuit and procedures, it was confirmed that it was a bad electric match with a break in the wire. This was the first time I’ve seen an electric match fail in the three years I’ve been with the RRS, but it has been known to happen. With Larry’s whole payload system requiring repackaging, it was decided for expediency, just to remove Larry’s rocket from the launch rails, remove the nozzle and dump the micrograin propellant for a safe disposal burn on the ground. Larry will be able to re-use his alpha hardware, but it will have to wait for next launch.

Next was Osvaldo’s red colored alpha with his alpha with a parachute system built in it. Osvaldo made some minor improvements to the circuitry and this was to be his second flight. He also had a commercial telemetry package within his payload section.

Osvaldo’s red alpha with the breakwire switch to start the timer and the pull pin to arm the battery before walking away to the bunker to fire

Osvaldo’s alpha parachute system, break-wire secured to launch rail starts the internal timer

The first flight of his original parachute design for the alpha on 2018-06-02 was a complete success. Despite some slight overheating of the parachute from the black powder deployment charge on the initial flight, the rocket still coasted down very gently such that it laid neatly on the ground and a shovel wasn’t necessary for recovery.

The flight of Osvaldo’s second alpha was similarly successful in that the break-wire system and deployment mechanism operated properly, but the parachute itself failed to unfold due to tangling. The rocket’s descent even with the folded parachute was able to be spotted and Osvaldo recovered all pieces of his second flight.

Osvaldo inspects the second iteration of his alpha parachute system, 2018-07-21

Also, as an added bonus, Osvaldo was able to fit a commercial telemetry package to measure the flight acceleration. As the whole package survived in tact, it will be very interesting what the device was able to measure from within the tight confines of alpha payload tube near the nose. I hope he can present his results from the flight at the next meeting.

Osvaldo’s data package survives the flight, a little singed, and despite a folded parachute

There has been a lot of great progress in parachutes for the RRS standard alpha recently. Both Larry and Osvaldo have made great progress. With the persistent efforts of our RRS membership, I think its reasonable to expect that we could offer a standard alpha parachute package for our future events once we demonstrate a series of successful flights, settle on the design and figure the added cost.

Richard Garcia’s project having two successful static firings gave him confidence to try to mount and fly the third sugar motor. After having some initial integration problems and a rail button coming off, he was able to get his golden rocket ready for a launch on the rail launcher.

The rail launcher at the MTA is a great asset to the society. It has been used on several projects with good success, but it is a very heavy and sturdy device that requires two or three people to assemble and make ready. Also, the pin system that connects the rail to the stand fits very snugly and sometimes requires a lot of elbow grease and persuasion (perhaps with a rubber mallet) to get the right alignment of the holes. Despite the high heat, we managed to get things ready for Richard’s flight.

Rail piece with 12-foot, 80-20, 1515 aluminum rail

Launch rail base

Launch rail system ready to receive the rocket

Underslung launch rail system at the RRS MTA, assembled and ready for Richard’s flight, 2018-07-21

80-20 aluminum 1515 sized rail (1.5-inch) used as the guide for the launcher

Richard checks the manual for the telemetry package that he armed for flight.

Richard’s flight was on one hand a little underwhelming as his sugar motor did not produce a great deal of impulse, but it did manage to propel itself up and get clear of the launch rail before neatly turning back to the ground in a low-speed, but very steady and stable flight. Although his rocket only made it 50 feet downrange, it can be seen in the flight video that his rocket was stable throughout the whole low speed which is a testament to Richard’s good construction of a very aerodynamic and well-balanced vehicle.

The sugar motor doesn’t offer much impulse as it burns out shortly after clearing the launch rail

The rocket gently pitches over after burnout heading for the ground not very far downrange (the last good frame I have from my camera-phone)

After a perfect arc at its low apogee, the rocket turned back to the ground and landed almost perfectly on its nose. Despite the rough landing, the nosecone wasn’t damaged and many parts of the vehicle were similarly undamaged.

A very short, but extremely stable flight off the rails for Richard’s golden rocket with a custom sugar motor

Richard safes his payload system as he inspects the recovered rocket.

Richard will be working on increasing the impulse from his motor, but he can be very confident in his vehicle design. With a little rework on some of the parts, I think he should have a very impressive flight at the next launch event.

Osvaldo has put a lot of work into the horizontal thrust stand that I started. To be able to static fire an alpha rocket to measure the impulse, we have to accomplish two more things.

RRS horizontal thrust stand in need of an extension piece to stabilize an alpha for static fire

The first is to get better mechanical support for an RRS standard alpha to prevent sideways motions or “wagging” during firing. The stout, welded frame of the horizontal thrust stand fits just fine to the concrete slab foundation and is very secure, but the 3-foot length of an alpha could create quite a wicked angular load on the load cell. After Osvaldo and I had discussed a few design concepts, Osvaldo brought his design to the MTA. Given the time constraints of the launch events that came before and the stifling heat, we had no time to attempt a fit check of an alpha rocket in the thrust stand. The complete assembly will have to be fit checked at the next event. Osvaldo had also noticed that when the long alpha rocket is put into this short stand, the rocket doesn’t align very well with the beam. Some minor adjustments might be necessary to make sure the thrust vector is properly aligned with the axis through the load cell.

RRS horizontal thrust stand extension piece

The second thing is to try to calibrate the load cell to make sure the S-type load cell is still reasonably within its original factory calibration. Osvaldo brought in a home-built frame with a hydraulic jack and pressure gauge which can reasonably approximate a force by the pressure and piston area relationship. We didn’t have time to try this setup, but this device can be demonstrated at home if Osvaldo has time before the August 10th meeting.

hydraulic jack testing rig for verifying the S-type load cell calibration

hydraulic jack-based force tester with high pressure gauge attached

The horizontal thrust stand was not ready for the 2018-07-21 launch event due to a lack of cabling and a hardy computer to manage the data acquisition. Many of us are reluctant to bring our personal laptops to run the data acquisition in the abrasive sandy dry lake environment at the MTA. Chris Lujan at the July meeting talked about using a simple Arduino Raspberry Pi computer as a low-cost alternative to gathering and processing the data. Hopefully, the RRS will get a simple device for this purpose and have it programmed to take data from the load cell as we conduct our hot-fires from this horizontal thrust stand. There still is a lot of work to do in getting the horizontal thrust stand working. With more hard work, the RRS will have this project working soon, hopefully by the next launch event in the fall. We’ll post updates as this project advances.

One final note on the event is that the RRS will be posting a few things on Instagram once the secretary (me) has time to get things started. The RRS is brand new to Instagram so we hope to expand our presence here to better show everyone what we do. At first, the RRS executive council will have access to post photos at the events we attend for the RRS. We hope this presence on Instagram will generate more excitement and participation at events with the RRS.

Follow RRS on Instagram

The RRS will certainly discuss today’s launch event as a whole at the next meeting on Friday, August 10, 2018. There were a lot of great things we tried at the event, but there were also a lot of logistical things we can do better next time. Also, it would be a good time to review some of the material improvements that we ought to make at the MTA to better handle the projects we expect in the near future.

Please join us on August 10th!