MTA launch event, 2019-07-13

by Dave Nordling, Secretary, RRS.ORG

The RRS was glad to have another launch event at our Mojave Test Area (MTA) on Saturday, July 13th. Our event this time was with Operation Progress in Watts. Thanks to our partnership with the LAPD CSP, we are able to fly nine alphas and a beta rocket at this event. It was to be a typically hot July day in the Mojave, but the winds were still through the morning picking up a little as the afternoon went on.

The RRS thrust stand structure flying Old Glory with the nine alphas (left) and the larger beta rocket (right) waiting for launch.

This was my first time as the event pyro-op. New member, Kent Schwitkis of Compton College and Waldo Stakes assisted me with the operations as we gave our young rocketeers a great view of their hard work.

Waldo Stakes in the old blockhouse as we prepare for firing of the next alpha rocket from the box rails.

As the LAPD CSP arrived at the RRS MTA, the society prepared to give a site tour to the students followed by our safety briefing.

The students of Operation Progress take some shelter and hydrate under the cover of the George Dosa building.

Our sample propellant burn demonstration gave the students a visual indication of what would be to come with the propellant driving their custom painted rockets into the blue sky. With the briefing and demonstrations complete, the students took shelter in the observation bunker.

RRS members, Kent Schwitkis and Dave Nordling loading an alpha for Operation Progress

One of the interesting features I noticed with this set of alphas was the use of modelling clay at the nozzle to hold back the micrograin propellant. This proved to be an equally effective method of holding back the propellant when the rocket is in firing position as the typical phenolic thin disks we commonly use.

The electric match lead wires emerging from a wad of modelling clay used to hold back the micrograin powdered propellant. The hole seen in this photo was smoothed over by a gentle brush of the finger. The method proved to be very effective.
A close-up view of the alpha nozzle with its plastic burst-disk and electric match resting on the interior side, the electric match wires protrude out the bottom (held back by carpenter’s tape just for convenience)
Kent holding the second to last alpha in the set. This one has a special feature added on the fin. A whistle.
An alpha streaks away almost perfectly straight in the nearly still winds.

One of the alpha rockets was outfitted with a whistle on one of its fin. Although imparting a spin during flight, the alphas tend to remain somewhat stable in flight. The results from this flight was somewhat disappointing as the whistle could not be clearly heard in either ascent or descent before impact.

Whistle attached to the fin of an RRS standard alpha to provide an audible trace of its flight

Our last rocket for Compton College was the larger RRS standard beta rocket. This two-inch diameter powerful vehicle made its impressive mark on the launch pad as it tore into the sky. After the launch, we took break for lunch. With the day growing hotter by the hour, our partners with the LAPD CSP and Operation Progress bid the MTA and the RRS farewell as they returned to the city.

Still capture of the beta flight from Frank Miuccio’s cell phone video footage from the bunker.

Following lunch, our second group at the event was a team from Compton College made up of Prof. Kent Schwitkis and Brian Johnson and their students. The Compton Comet was a standard alpha rocket outfitted with an instrumentation package and a parachute.

RRS welcomes Compton College at the MTA
The team discusses the assembly and operation of the payload in the Compton Comet.

New RRS member, Professor Kent Schwitkis got his first experience with loading the micrograin propellant in the Compton Comet at our loading area. This is a rite of passage for many of our new members. Although old and grossly inefficient, the zinc and sulfur powder propellant combination offers a simple and powerful combination to lift rockets in a yellow rushing plume.

After loading the propellant tube, the team begins their final assembly by mating the payload to the coupler.
The Compton Comet nearly complete with one more joint to connect.

The Compton Comet was loaded by the team into the alpha launch rails. All of us retreated to the concrete bunker for firing.

The team puts their hands on the rocket one last time before going to the pad.
Loading the Compton Comet into the RRS alpha launch rails. The payload arming flag flowing in the breeze.

The Compton Comet parachute somehow failed to deploy. The ballistic return of the rocket meant extraction by the time-honored method of shoveling. The Compton College team showed tremendous fortitude in the scorching 110 degree weather. The fruits of their labor was the return of the instrumented payload including the data chip inside.

Recovery of the Compton Comet by shovel.

Initial results showed that data was taken throughout the flight. The results are being reviewed by Compton College to be reported later to the society.

This was a very successful launch day at the RRS MTA and the society was glad to support the Operation Progress and Compton College student teams at our Mojave Test Area. For more information on similar rocket building programs with the RRS, contact our events coordinator, Larry Hoffing.

For all inquiries about using the RRS MTA, contact the RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti