In Memoriam: Brandy (Robert “Bob”) Bruce-Sharp (1953-2019)

by Larry Hoffing, Events Coordinator, Reaction Research Society and Korey Kline (contributing)


In January 2019, Brandy (Robert “Bob”) Bruce-Sharp passed away. As reported by Mark Clark and Tripoli, Brandy went quickly from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the BALLS 28 launch this past September, Brandy and wife Abbie’s ashes were launched and spread in an Aerotech M1939 rocket.

from left to right; Robin Meredith, Jim Bornwell, Jane (Brandy’s sister), Mark Clark, Gary Rosenfield

Bob was my friend and fellow student at Los Angeles (Robert H. Goddard) Pierce College rocket club that I founded in the early 1970’s. Around this time we met a high school kid named Korey Kline, he was only fifteen at the time but already a veteran shop mechanic. His high school rocket club, inspired by the Pierce club, found a Korean War five-inch diameter HVAR rocket at a vacant military recruiting office.

Bob Bruce, Korey Kline and Larry Hoffing of the Robert H. Goddard Rocket Society of Pierce College in Los Angeles
Bob Bruce and Larry Hoffing stand at a launch rack

We proceeded to convert it to a zinc-sulfur rocket which required bolting some ports of the multiport nozzle shut, adding fins, and a payload section- I think Bob’s mother sewed the parachute. I did most of the machining in the school’s metal shop while some of the welding students added the fins. I remember hauling the thing, which weighed about 40 lbs unloaded, for a show-and-tell presentation at the Pacific Rocket Society (PRS) which met at the (now defunct) Northrop Institute of Technology in El Segundo.  B. J. Humphreys was the PRS president at that time.

B. J. Humphreys, president of the Pacific Rocket Society, builder and pilot of the world’s first rocket-powered wheelchair
Bob Bruce and Larry Hoffing in September 1972

Bob named the rocket “Bifrost” (pronounced “BIF-roast”) which is the old Norse term for the rainbow bridge to Asgard.  Our mission was to fly Bifrost at the Mojave Test Area (MTA) near the town of Cantil, CA, where the RRS, FAR and Polaris Inc. (under the direction of Dave Crisalli) currently test. In those days the bunker was covered with telephone poles that had been trucked out by RRS member John Mariano and his cousin in the 1960’s.  There’s a pile of them still laying at the MTA to this day! Access to the site was by dune buggy. The yellow blockhouse with its ballistic glass windows still stands at the RRS MTA.

This sets the scene for the launch of the missile on a wooden home-built Bruce rack – 3 aluminum fins had been welded onto a cowling over the casing as we hadn’t realized the launch racks were built for four-fin rockets (Hint: let your new members know about the launch rack configuration ahead of time). The PRS had most of the pyro-op’s at that time.  The PRS pyro-op in charge was afraid we’d blow up the rocket and surrounding area so he made us fill the casing half way with sand. It must have weighed 80 lbs.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ignition! The rocket lifted off, flew a short distance, and crashed. The failure to go the distance was attributed to the multi nozzle ports, we didn’t bolt enough of them shut to build pressure. There is a photo of it flying, I gave it to my machine shop professor, and unfortunately don’t have a copy.

Bob was a consummate modeler and draftsman. He won top prize from Estes in 1972 for his remote control Space Shuttle which was a thing of beauty.

Bob Bruce wins first prize in 1972

Bob started a rocket kit company with Korey in the mid 1970’s called California Model Rockets, a precursor to large/high power rocketry. One of my biggest regrets in life is not joining them in this endeavor. Bob and I had previously invented the largest model rocket in the world we called “The Wopper” . The California State Fire Marshal rules at the time was that model rockets had a weight limit of 1 lbm including the motor, so designing it was no easy task. We got the brilliant idea one day of enclosing foam rings and horizontal balsa slats with construction paper to create giant tubes. The biggest F-sized motor at the time was F-100’s made by Flight Systems Inc. The large model rocket flew spectacularly to about 300 feet.

Bob relocated to Arizona sometime in the 1980’s to pursue drafting, and afterward I lost touch with him. However, my memories are vivid of us mixing and testing “Blue Knight” candy fuel (sugar motors), and launching model rockets at Half (Hof) Mile Square in Fountain Valley, CA (a former air ship site) with the Westchester YMCA Rocket Club. Hof Mile was a trip. Wheeled sail cars raced around on the landing strip as we launched rockets. We’d even have to pick up the gate keys from the local base commander. It was here while looking for a rocket in the tumbleweed that I stumbled upon a huge, beautiful red fox when the area was still wild back then.

Korey remembers Bob as his earliest mentor for rocketry. “By example he taught me to think outside the box!” Korey says he was only fifteen when he met us and we (and his mother) had to drive him to the rocket club meetings. Bob also introduced Korey to B. J. Humphreys of the PRS and Gary Rosenfield at the RRS.

One project we all worked on together was building the Hang Loose Hang Glider, a biplane glider made of bamboo, wood, wire, & plastic sheeting. We cut and bent bamboo spars for the airfoil wings at Korey’s house over his mom’s gas stove. The glider had around a 14-foot wingspan and a 12-foot rudder.  It was Korey that drew the short straw to fly first. With Korey hanging in the center and the two of us at the wing tips we took off running from the top of a hill in Granada Hills. Korey lifted off about 10 feet in the air and started sailing down towards a school fence at the bottom where he bailed out before hitting.

Another thing we did that I can mention now was flying model rockets out of Korey’s in ground swimming pool. We sealed the motor and electric igniter with wax and lowered the rocket and launch pad to the bottom of the pool with the controller on deck. All I can say is that a sea launched rocket is pretty cool when it breaks the surface!

There were many interesting things we did with Bob and we remember him dearly. He loved his muscle car too, I remember other drivers on the 405 Freeway coming along side trying to race us, but Bob wasn’t a speeder, just a tinkerer. I often wonder what became of that car.

Mark Clark further reports on the Tripoli members forum:

“Brandy [aka Bob] started flying rockets in the 1960’s and at Miles Square Park and very early Lucerne launches. Getting into high power in the late 1980’s, he had moved to the Phoenix area and was a founding member of Arizona High Power Rocketry Association (AHPRA).

Brandy started Sonic Systems that locally sold reloads and nationally 7 1/2″ sized mosquito-type nosecones. Those who saw the ads in High Powered Rocketry (HPR) magazine will remember them. Brandy was also involved with the BALLS launch for the 18 years AHPRA was involved and a frequent poster to these forums. Brandy was a great friend for nearly 30 years.”

www.ahpra.com

www.ballslaunch.com

Brandy “Bob” Bruce-Sharp at the BALLS 25 launch with his up-scaled Centuri Enerjet 2650 rocket

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.

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