April 27th 2013 Firing report

The launch was very well attended and we got some good video. The launched got started right after the tallest dust devil I’ve seen in person was kicking up dirt over at FAR but thankfully kept its distance from us. I didn’t feel like cleaning sand out of my camera again.

We had two beta launches and both parachute recovery systems failed. Neither of the rockets were recovered. Osvoldo’s rocket’s parachute ripped on deployment. Frank’s rocket had the instrument section separated shortly after takeoff. Larry had a static test of a class composite motor. It was buried in the ground aka “poor man’s vertical test stand” which was good since it exploded upon ignition. The nozzle was recovered and did not show signs of erosion. Chris had two sucrose/potassium nitrate motor static tests. He was testing two different configurations. The first one fired for about 13 seconds, but the nozzle was ejected part way through. One of the things he was testing was nozzle material and construction methods, it was found that that particular bonding agent being used as a nozzle was not strong enough for nozzle retention however it appeared to work satisfactorily as an ablative. The second test happened latter in the evening and I, unfortunately, was unable to film it but thankfully Frank filmed it with his phone. The second motors grain cracked and ejected some of the propellant and it finished burning on the ground.

The USC team had a large 2 stage rocket named the “Texas Two Step” painted like one of those red white and blue rocket popsicles. One of the goals of the test was to use the same launch tower they intend to use on their suborbital launch. After working on it all day and after some delays (they had missed some parts and had to send people to go and get them) they finally launch just before the sun went over the mountain. Sun down, incidentally, was the cut off for scrubbing the launch for the day, so they made it at the last minute. The 2nd stage did not ignite but was recovered from its GPS signal. The first stage was not recovered. The powered portion of the first stage flight deviated significantly from vertical and it is not clear yet whether the second stage did not ignite due to a mechanical malfunction or a safety feature that would prevent the second stage from igniting if it was too far from vertical in order to keep the rocket’s possible landing zone within a certain range. They may update us further during the next meeting. (They were not at the meeting on May 10th 2013)

My peroxide/gasoline rocket was unfortunately not ready to fire since I wound up scraping some of my parts. It should be ready by the next launch. I gave a shot at making a sucrose/potassium nitrate motor but unfortunately my boring bar broke at the last minute leaving the nozzle with a .050″ or so step in it. I’ve got some replacement boring bars (although I’ll need to make a special mount for my lathe) and the motor should be ready for the next launch.

Dave Crisalli was at the launch and I had the opportunity to talk with him. He agreed to let me scan the RRS newsletters that he has. So now I just need to get a hold of them to do the actual scanning. (A a note on building up a digital library: I finally got an alumni membership at my college, so now I can check out books from the library again. So anything they have I can get a scan of. They also happen to have a lot of the journals from the American Rocket Society which later merged with the Institute of the Aerospace Sciences to become the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics). I browsed a volume they had one day. It had a neat article on the ground handling hardware for the Viking missile. I hope to digitize those too some day.) He also mentioned having some intention to use some of the old logs of wood out there to set aside some space for parking and camping. Sounds like a good thing to have a work party for. I don’t know about you, but dragging around logs of wood out in the middle of desert sounds like good fun to me. I don’t know what kind of time line he was thinking of but I’d be glad to help.

Particularly interesting at the launch was the presence of a National Geographic film crew. They were filming for a new show called “Meltdown” which will be a new show on precious metals. How that premise got them at the MTA goes something like this. Some rocket engines are made from precious metals i.e. copper. It’s used because of its high thermal conductivity on regenerativly cooled rocket engines. For example, the Space Shuttle and Falcon9 engines both use a pretty big chunk of copper. I suspect that someone somewhere has made an engine using silver in place of copper since it has even better thermal conductivity than copper but I know of no particular examples. Apparently they couldn’t find anyone with an engine made with copper who would do the show, so they came out to film the RRS instead. If I had known about this far enough in advance I might have been able to make one just for the show since I basically have blue prints for one. I would have been happy to at least give it a try anyway. (for those interested, this I what I was referring to: http://www.cientificosaficionados.com/libros/cohetes.pdf if anyone wants to give it a try I’d be glad to help if I can) I have no idea what kind of tone show will have or how much time will be spent on the RRS nor do I know when exactly the show will air (possibly in the summer sometime) nor with what certainty it will be aired at all. I know what some of you may be thinking: considering how often the media treats anyone doing anything interesting with science or engineering as dangerous goofballs and not gentlemen heroes like Jules Verne might have them portrayed, there is always a concern when dealing with the media about what light we may be portrayed in. But Frank was on top of that and he was working with them and they had an agreement to keep everything positive and professional, which I think will be the case. At the May 10th meeting Frank gave some examples of the good working relationship we had with them and making sure we’re ok with the way we’ll be shown. Even if the coverage isn’t perfectly what we want I still think the publicity will probably be a good thing.


Over all I think the launch went really well, and I can’t wait till the next one.


-Richard Garcia

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