July 2018 meeting

The RRS held its monthly meeting on July 13, 2018 at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. We got a late start (7:45pm), but we were very well attended. New member, Wilbur Owens, brought a friend of his from the Compton Aviation Museum. The RRS accepted a new student member, Bill Behenna. We also had two newcomers from Caltech stop by who were interested in joining the society.

Our July 2018 meeting gets started

We welcomed our newcomers and started our meeting with a very full agenda. Frank brought a new air launcher device he built which operates by a hand piston. We didn’t have time to discuss it but Frank is adding more teaching tools to our educational program to show how much fun even simple rocketry can be.

Frank’s hand pump air rocket launcher

We went a little out of order from the agenda, but we managed to cover all topics in this meeting that ran very late.

[1]
The first topic of the agenda was to confirm to everyone that the next launch event at the MTA will be on July 21st. We will host a new group of students completing the RRS educational program. This is another fine group of students from the Watts area and we are grateful to the LAPD CSP program for their continued support of this recurring and successful project. Frank and Larry noted that we will try to get this event started earlier to attempt to avoid the scorching heat of mid-day.

Also, we had a discussion about how to improve the society communications in the wake of a last minute unforeseen change of schedule for a launch event. This was an exceptional case and unlikely to happen again soon, but it did highlight an important aspect of RRS operations which is communicating with our membership. It is very, very important that all active members have their emails with the RRS secretary as the duty to send out the mass email falls to me. There are two ways that the RRS secretary communicates to our active membership:

    (1) the email list for meeting agenda notices

I have been building this email list and maintaining it, but I know that I am missing some interested parties. The communication between our membership is still important. Please be kind to other members and pass on the notices and encourage everyone not receiving their emails to let me know to make the proper inclusions. This is a constant work in progress and I am thankful to those who help make this happen.

    (2) posting of all launch event dates is on the RRS website

I regularly update the launch date information under the “Forum” section of the RRS website under the “Launches” tab. Modifications to the RRS.ORG website were discussed as a means to make a clearer way for anyone to see if we are “GO” or “NO-GO” before the launch event. I’m not sure what Chris Lujan has in mind, but we will discuss this issue further as time goes on. Effective communication to our membership is important. The use of other social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook were suggested, but it is not clear how widely used these platforms are with our membership that spans many generations of technology adoption.

[2]
The second topic from the agenda was my proposal for the RRS to acquire a road sign. This has been approved by the society and the cost is not unreasonable. Placement of a simple sign at the first gate leading into the RRS’s private testing site, the Mojave Test Area (MTA), will make it easier for newcomers to be sure they are going directly to our site adjacent to the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR).

RRS sign at the MTA entrance

The RRS does have a great sign built on top of a metal arch right at the entrance to the MTA built by member, George Garboden, but the society felt a second smaller sign (24 inches tall by 36 inches wide) at the first gate would be another helpful feature to show newcomers the way in.

Proposed road sign for outside the first gate to the RRS MTA

Placement of the sign will be about 10 feet behind the barbed wire fence about 6 feet to the left of our larger metal gate. This should assure good visibility to those reaching this fork in the road.

We had a substantial discussion about the sign content. The results of this discussion are in the sample posted from the website. We also had a substantial discussion about mounting of the sign and the desire to have a solid structure that can withstand years of the gusting winds of the Mojave. The sign quality chosen was of the highest quality to assure a long life under the corrosive effects of Koehn Dry Lake. Richard has suggested that the sign include the RRS logo which I will look into with the vendor. The RRS has given the authority to proceed on this task.

Further to this subject, Richard Garcia has suggested the sign be accompanied by some kind of metal sculpture representing a rocket. This would nicely complement the sign, but this is a topic beyond the original scope of the meeting. In times past, George Dosa had a large metal pipe embedded vertically into the dirt which used to have fins on it like a rocket reaching the end of its ballistic flight. I think the pipe is still there but the fin decorations have been long removed.

[3]
The subject of Saturday seminars was only briefly discussed at the July meeting. In past meetings, the RRS has had special presentations made by invited guests. These are very enjoyable to our membership, but they do often run long and consume a lot of meeting time. To be more effective in our meetings, it was recommended that for lengthy presentations, the society ought to schedule a special meeting for our membership on a Saturday morning at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. This way, those of us with day jobs can come to the center before the heat of the day and enjoy the presentations at our leisure. The RRS has identified several potential candidates for these “Saturday seminars”, but thus far, the first session has yet to be scheduled. We will revisit this topic in later meetings. Our vice-president, Frank Miuccio, will be the point of contact on this topic going forward. Updates on this topic will be posted on this website.

[4]
The RRS director of research, Richard Garcia, discussed his progress with the RRS standard liquid rocket. This has been garnering a lot of enthusiasm as many universities have been pursuing similar goals.

RRS director of research, Richard Garcia, explains his liquid rocket prototype at the 75th anniversary symposium

The RRS has decades of experience in building these powerful but simplified launchers, but in recent times our activity in this area has been slight. Richard has made a lot of the key drawings, but is still working to finalize the dimensions and proceed with construction. The RRS membership at the meeting had the chance to review his current drawings and make suggestions. Richard will proceed with completing the design and drawings and with the RRS support begin with selection of suppliers, machinists and construction.

Richard’s rocket will use the RRS 15×15 rail launcher that we have at the MTA. The 16-foot rail length should be sufficient to guide the rocket to a stable initial flight. Further aerodynamic study will be needed to finalize the design. Preliminary pictures and features of the design will be discussed in future posts.

[5]
The next topic was the subject of pyrotechnic operators and the RRS’s mission to qualify more members as licensed pyro-op’s to expand our ability to conduct events and improve the knowledge of our membership in this important aspect of safety in operations. What we do can be very hazardous, but with the attention to detail and commitment to safety that we have shown over the decades of our history, we are blessed to not have ever had a fatality and very likely to continue this tradition long into the future.

The RRS has identified a few members including myself who are committed to starting the process of becoming a pyro-op with the California State Fire Marshal’s office. The first step is making a request to the Cal State Fire Marshal for their latest package of information which includes a PDF copy of the latest laws and regulations that every pyro-op is expected to know.

California State Fire Marshall rules on fireworks also governs amateur rocketry

In parallel, the RRS is creating a standard package of information for members that include these state provided materials and other resource materials deemed useful by the RRS to properly educate any current or aspiring pyro-op.

The second step in the process is getting five letters of recommendation from licensed pyro-ops of the same class or above the class level you are applying for. The first level of licensing is Rocket Class 3 which is what our new pyro-ops will seek. The final step is paying your exam fees to the state of California, sitting for the exam, passing the exam and getting your license information from the state. It is very important that our membership strive to keep their state license current and not let it lapse. The RRS is indebted to our pyro-ops for making a big part of what we do possible and safe.

Letters of recommendation require a licensed pyro-op to vouch for your abilities to conduct safe operations and a demonstrate sufficient knowledge and competence in all relevant areas for rocketry all in a signed document sent to the state of California. It is not an easy thing to ask of someone who doesn’t know you well. It is not uncommon and very reasonable for many pyro-ops to refuse a request for a letter of recommendation. It is the requester’s sole duty to prove themselves to each licensed pyro-op that they are worthy of their endorsement.

In the past, the RRS had many pyro-ops and by attending MTA events and participating in meetings and other society events, RRS pyro-ops would get to know you and could more easily vouch for your skills to the state. Osvaldo has been successful in securing his letters of recommendation and sending his application to the state. He is now waiting for instructions on when to sit for his examination. This is a process that can take months.

I have also been fortunate to secure letters of recommendation from licensed pyro-ops, but I am still in the process of qualifying in the eyes of other pyro-ops I have asked for their endorsement. It was suggested that the new class of RRS pyro-ops combine our efforts and share our resources. It was also suggested that we ask some licensed pyro-ops to make a presentation at an RRS meeting or special event as a way of educating us in the practical knowledge that they have gained as a pyro-op. Perhaps through these sessions, more of our members can get the letters of recommendation necessary to begin the process.

Dave Nordling assists in the loading of an RRS alpha into the rails under the instruction of pyro-op, Dave Crisalli

It is my intent to encourage the RRS to adopt a more unified approach to gaining this knowledge either by seminar or by apprenticeships that could be offered by other rocketry groups such as Rocketry Organization of California (ROC). I took the action to approach ROC and other amateur rocketry groups about sending a set of our aspiring pyro-op members to a launch event or special training session in the hope to achieve wider endorsement and help build the RRS roster of pyro-ops.

[6]
As required since the start of the SuperDosa project, I presented my quarterly update.

To remind everyone what the SuperDosa project is, it is the society’s desire to retake the amateur rocketry altitude record lost in 2004 to CXST. At a height of 380,576 feet (116 km), this is a daunting challenge, but we have a substantial amount of knowledge and experience from our past members to drawn upon. Many boosted dart designs, similar to the SuperLoki or Viper III, are capable of reaching this altitude range above the von Karman line of 328,083 feet and 4 inches (100 km).

Boosted Dart – Viper IIIa

We have decided to begin a long process to build a boosted dart type of rocket and launch it from Spaceport America or Blackrock to retake the amateur rocketry altitude record by aiming for 400,000 feet (121.92 km). This will take several attempts and perhaps a few different designs, but eventually we will succeed.

For comparison, USC recently set an altitude record for a university built rocket of 144,000 feet (43.89 km).

Some of our newest RRS members just recently fired a full-scale solid motor at the MTA with the aim of reaching 150,000 feet (45.71 km).

The vehicle that succeeds in meeting this challenge and restoring the RRS title will be named after long-time member and a mentor to many in the RRS, George Dosa. George was the first licensed pyro-op in California for rocketry and wrote large portions of the rules governing our hobby. George is still active with the society and we are showing our gratitude by using his name for this project.

SuperDosa-mockup (2)

George Dosa at the 75th RRS symposium in April 2018, third from left

Substantial progress has been made by Larry Hoffing in making sample batches of the RRS standard recipe, although I understand he had to make some deviations to the mixture due to lack of particular chemicals necessary for plasticizing and release from the mold. Addition of accelerants such as iron oxide is not necessarily part of the RRS standard mixture, but it has been used in other mixtures to increase burn rate with good results. The RRS is in the process of re-establishing suppliers for the key materials such as the HTPB binder and the ammonium perchlorate and aluminum powder of different sieve sizes.

Substantial progress has been made with some of our new members and their booster design which was unsuccessfully tested on June 7, 2018 at the MTA. The mixing procedure and some of the equipment necessary for casting larger grains will surely be useful in this sustained effort to build motor of this size. Part of the issue was poor subscale testing to get burn rate data.

The RRS is working on completing a ballistic evaluation motor (BEM) to attain proper propellant curve data which should benefit all society projects using the same solid mixture. I have not had any luck with the getting our top and bottom plate assemblies yet, but I hope my machinist will be available soon to complete all parts well before the next quarterly update.

RRS ballistic evaluation motor design concept

Some of the parts are ready. Richard Garcia was kind enough to turn out the initial set of nozzle pucks of variable throat sizes. I have the fasteners and gasket materials which need to be cut for the seals. The RRS has a 5000 psig pressure transducer and some of the fittings, but we need a short length of clean stainless steel tubing to make the pressure connection. We have a data acquisition unit, but the wiring harnesses needed to be made to route back to the blockhouse.

Chris Lujan has recommended that instead of bringing someone’s personal laptop we get a simple computer like a Raspberry Pi unit to do the data crunching and output the results. The desert environment can be very damaging and it would only take a simple computer to manage the data and output the results. Chris will work on this hardware and software aspect of the data acquisition and processing.

RRS BEM graphite nozzle pucks, courtesy of Richard Garcia

More progress on the SuperDosa progress will be presented in October at the next quarterly report.

[7]
The next topic of discussion was led by Alastair Martin. Alastair is a very active member of the RRS and the Mars Society. He is a filmmaker and producer and brings many talents to the society.

Alastair Martin records elements of Richard Garcia’s rocket candy propellant manufacturing process at the RRS MTA, 4/7/2018

Alastair discussed the necessity of the RRS embracing a larger social media presence. The benefits are that the RRS can reach a wider audience, particularly in the younger demographics. Alastair recommended that the RRS open an Instagram account and do work on improving our Facebook page that is already online. Although there are other social media platforms, it was these two services that he has the most success in his businesses.

The use of Instagram can make the society better able to show the world a glimpse of our activities from a select group of our active membership. Instagram is useful for conveniently and frequently posting photos and short videos and is virtually instantaneous. This nicely complements the website we currently use. The RRS approved the opening of an Instagram account.

Once you have the Instagram smartphone app loaded, you can find us at our Instagram ID which is our full name without spaces:
Reactionresearchsociety

Our society treasurer, Chris Lujan, generated the account and he will be primarily responsible for the RRS Instagram account. The executive council, director of research and events coordinator will be the first members to have permission to post photos to the RRS Instagram feed. The RRS will consider allowing other trusted members to post on our new Instagram account as we go on.

Reaction Research Society on Instagram

The RRS has a Facebook page. I think it is our vice-president Frank Miuccio, that maintains this site. The RRS will strive to post more often on Facebook which is widely used by many people worldwide.

RRS on Facebook

As secretary, I will continue to maintain our world-wide web site, RRS.ORG as our primary means of advertising ourselves and posting updates to activities.

[8]
After some debate and discussion, the RRS has decided to proceed with holding the 2019 RRS symposium in April next year. Although it is a substantial commitment of resources and money by the society, the 2017 and our 75th anniversary symposium were successively larger hits with our public audience. We will strive to improve our symposium based on the lessons we’ve learned and use the momentum of enthusiasm built from two very successful events. However, it was agreed that after the 2019 RRS symposium, the society will not hold another for two years. Our commitment to what will be the 2021 symposium will be pending until the year before.

The 2019 RRS symposium is coming in April.

With this decision, setting the date and starting our long process of contacting industry, academia and government speakers will begin. There will be more discussed on this topic in future meetings. We are excited to confirm another symposium and hope to make this event even better than before.

[9]
The agenda had originally stated that our next launch event at the MTA with LAPD CSP will be Saturday, July 21st. We circled back to this topic reminding everyone that the safety briefing will be conducted at 10:30 AM and the launch event will proceed at 11:00 AM. It is the goal to have all eight of the standard alphas assembled by the students launched before the heat of the noon-day sun rises. We want to encourage our membership and invited guests to this event to arrive very early which for me means leaving Los Angeles at least before 7:00 AM. Dave Crisalli will be our pyro-op for this event and I have volunteered to be his apprentice unless one of our other pyro-ops in training would like to do so.

[10]
I had an agenda item to discuss future events at the MTA including one possible event with a BBC program in the UK. This may occur in October 2018 and discussions are still in work. The RRS will likely hold another educational event with the LAPD CSP in the fall which may be able to coincide. Larry had made contact with the Girl Scouts of Orange County who were seeking the RRS to participate in a regional STEM event. All of these projects will also be discussed further at the next meeting in August 2018 as more information comes in.

[11]
Osvaldo gave our meeting audience a demonstrate of his new method of loading micrograin propellant (without the propellant of course). For some background, the RRS standard alpha is a common platform in our society events. They are particularly common with our educational classes that we hold regularly. Based on the micrograin propellant invented by our founder, George James, this simple mixture of zinc and sulfur powders presents a challenge in loading. The coupler is installed with an O-ring seal at the head end. The 3-foot long, 1.25-inch DOM steel tube with four welded sheet metal fins and holes drilled for installing the nozzle is basically an open tube closed at one end.

alpha bulkhead loaded and bolted in

RRS standard alpha configured for propellant loading; nozzle is installed at the end of loading

The 80% zinc and 20% sulfur by weight propellants are premixed by tumbling and is loaded into the propellant tube by hand. Entrapped air is a frustrating factor in getting a tight packing of the propellant into the tube. As the powder falls to the bottom, the air can not completely get out of the way and empty pockets form. These pockets can be released by simple mechanical tapping or gently bouncing the tube vertically on a wooden block. In the finite volume of the propellant tube, entrapped air is a waste of space that could be filled with the mass of propellant. The loaded weight of the alpha subtracted from the empty weight of the alpha propellant tube at the start is the only real gauge of how well packed the propellant is.

Many methods of compaction and casting of the micrograin propellant to achieve higher densities have been tried over the RRS history. Some of these have had success, most did not. This topic is a long subject which can be researched and summarized in a separate article if there is sufficient interest. For now, only the simple method of manually loading the premixed powder will be discussed.

The common method used today is to pour in the propellant mixture one cup at a time and bounce the bottom of the tube on a wooden beam. Vibration devices do work, but they tend to work too well in that the zinc and sulfur being of different densities start to separate which is very undesirable. This method of one cup at a time is slow, but effective.

a cupful of micrograin propellant drawn from the tumbling mixing drum

traditional loading method that carefully removes trapped air by periodic mechanical tapping is very slow and very messy

When the RRS started to run more launch events with schools, loading a dozen or more propellant tubes started to take a great deal of time including coming to the MTA on the night before. Osvaldo who is the main person doing this loading sought a faster but effective means to loading.

He tried a few experimental practices including drawing a vacuum at the bottom of the tube with a special fitting and using a lowered piston on a string approach, both of which were flawed and not that successful.

His most recent method has proven to be very effective and quick. He gets a length of tiny brass tubing and loosely affixes a round cardboard disk. With this cardboard disk inserted into the mouth of the tube and a proper funnel attached, the full propellant load of the alpha can be loaded directly into the funnel.

Rapid micrograin loading by small brass tube and cardboard disk

By allowing the weight of the full propellant load to lower itself into the tube on top of the cardboard disk, the disk serves as a seal to divert any entrapped air beneath up through the hole in the brass tube. The air below the solid powder mass has a route to escape through the hollow tube up the center. With this technique the whole propellant load can drop into the tube in one motion, leaving the cardboard disk at the bottom. The brass tube easily pulls out from the cardboard disk and out of the propellant tube now loaded with the micrograin propellant.

tube and cardboard disk aligned in the funnel in the mouth of an empty RRS alpha propellant tube

Illustration of rapid method of loading micrograin propellant

This technique eliminates the barrier of the air below trying to move past the falling mass of powder and results in a reasonably dense packing of the propellant all done in one shot.

Osvaldo Tarditti and his rapid method of micrograin loading; note the very small but long brass tubing and the extra large funnel to hold the full ~4 lb load of micrograin propellant

I took photos of Osvaldo’s process at the last launch event with UCLA on June 2, 2018. The pictures and illustrations I have posted of the technique that has been successfully demonstrated at the MTA are hopefully clear enough to show the principle.

[12]
This was intended to the first topic, but Osvaldo circled back it at the end. Osvaldo successfully flew a parachute system in an RRS alpha. This is a feat that I don’t think has been in done in a very, very long time. Most of our alpha rockets come back ballistically and require back-breaking extraction by shoveling out of the hard-packed dry lake bed. It has been a general goal of the RRS to encourage more payloads to be flown in the RRS standard alphas as we do a lot of these flights. It has been a goal of mine to eventually fly a parachute system in the tight confines of the alpha’s payload tube. Osvaldo developed a pull switch that activates a timer chip inside to delay the firing of a small powder charge that ejects the parachute by means of a rising piston. This was discussed in the details of the same launch event with UCLA on June 2, 2018.

Osvaldo stands behind his RRS standard alpha parachute system successfully flown at the MTA on 6/2/2018

We did not have a lot of time to show all of the parts, but Osvaldo did mention that he will fly his parachute system again at the July 21, 2018 launch event with a modified timer design and break-wire system that is more compact. I may get Osvaldo to write a full detailed article on this subject in a future posting to come. This parachute system if proven to be repeatably effective may become a standard part of our RRS launch events with schools, but we must consider the added costs of producing them with standard costs we already charge for our RRS standard alpha. This is a really good topic and I’m sure we’ll be talking more about this in August.

[BONUS]
Richard Garcia treated us to a short video made by Microcosm back in 2001 with their experimental launch vehicle that did engine test at the RRS MTA. This dual-engine liquid rocket had thrust vector actuators and went through a successful hot-firing in the video.

Microcosm’s Scorpius-S-RM-20k vehicle test at the RRS MTA in 2001

The video showed the later rocket flight. We may post this on the RRS YouTube channel for everyone to see. It was a nice way to conclude our meeting with a rocket firing and flight.

[IN CLOSING]
We adjourned the meeting very late (well past 10:00 PM) which is only possible due to the kindness of our hosts at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center which closes at 9:00 PM. We are very grateful to them, but the RRS must strive to be more effective in our meetings to start on time and finish on time.

If there are any topics for next month’s meeting, please contact the RRS and make your suggestion. In the August meeting, we will likely discuss the July 21st launch and lessons learned from that event. We also have other events planned for this fall.

The next RRS meeting will be August 10th.

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

November 2017 meeting

The RRS held its November monthly meeting at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator in downtown Los Angeles. Our regular location at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena was closed for Veteran’s Day on Friday, November 10th.

Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI)

Meeting topics included the upcoming launch event with the kids from the Imperial Courts neighborhood. This event was postponed to November 18th and was greatly anticipated as the kids worked hard and learned a lot in the five-week program put on by the RRS events team with the help of the LAPD CSP program.

Imperial Courts students prepare their paper rockets for launch

The program included a tour of Los Angeles Air Force Base at the SMC Heritage Center with Lt. Col. Alec Porter where the kids got to build and launch paper rockets.

Paper rockets at LA AFB with the Imperial Courts RRS class

USC Impact News has been documenting the whole Imperial Courts class program including the launch event at the MTA. The RRS looks forward to seeing their finished program at the end of the semester this December 2017.

The programs with LAPD CSP have been very successful and another program with Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School is in the works for early next year.

The RRS symposium is in the planning stages for the upcoming 75th anniversary symposium on April 14, 2018. Several invitations to presenters and exhibitors have been issued and more are in the works. Frank Miuccio is leading the symposium again and we hope to have an even grander event for the public on this special occasion.

The Astrojet newsletter still needs submissions! We have had several interested parties, but no submittals have been received.

Please! Submit your drafts to the RRS secretary right away.
secretary@rrs.org

The Astrojet newsletter was the original publication started by the RRS when it was founded by George James in 1943. We thought it fitting to issue this one-time edition of the Astrojet for our 75th anniversary on January 6, 2018. It will be available in print only and the funds collected will support the RRS in our anniversary year events. Issues will be available by mail to our membership and other interested parties for a cost of $10 per issue.

Nominations of next year’s officers for the RRS took place at the meeting which is our normal custom. Voting by the administrative membership is underway and the results of the elections will be announced at the December 8th meeting. The meeting will be at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, as usual at 7:30pm.

Please let me know if I have missed or misstated anything in this post. See you at the next meeting.
secretary@rrs.org

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.

***

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.

***

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

***

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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