by Richard Garcia, Director of Research, Reaction Research Society
In this first month of the new year, 2022, a new technical article is now available to RRS members only. This article will be one in a quarterly series of technical subjects explored that are relevant to amateur rocketry.
Combustion instability is a common concern in the development of new liquid rocket engines and in solid motors. Although not as commonly found in the smaller engine designs of amateur rocketry, it has been seen in some cases. A simple and inexpensive method of conducting acoustic analysis of rocket engine behavior in hot-fire is discussed.
The article will be kept in the society library. Contact the director of research for inquiries.
The Reaction Research Society held its last launch event of the year 2021 at the Mojave Test Area on Friday, December 17th. I was the pyrotechnic operator in charge. This was my first launch event as a Class 1 pyrotechnic operator although none of the activities this day involved a liquid rocket. We had four launches planned for that day. Two from Keith Yoerg, one from Wolfram Blume and one from Dimitri Timohovich. RRS members Wilbur Owens, Xavier Marshall and Bill Inman came to be spectators at this launch event.
IMPROVEMENTS TO THE 1515 RAIL LAUNCHER
The first flight of the Hawk in late November revealed a concern about the stability of the 1515 rail launcher with heavier rockets. Although quite heavy in its steel rectangular tube construction, Dimitri and Keith used cinder blocks and sandbags to weigh down the legs of the base. This resulted in damage to several of the sandbags from the exhaust of the M-sized motor from the initial flight.
A flat steel plate with a threaded rod welded to the center was connected to the bottom of the 1515 rail launcher to allow for more weight to the base and allow for more cinder blocks to be added for even more stability. New adjustable feet were added to the existing four threaded holes at the far points of the legs. Eyebolts were also bought to screw into the 3/4-10 holes in the pad to strap the base down if necessary.
SECOND FLIGHT OF THE HAWK
The December 17th launch event was primarily for the second flight of Keith Yoerg’s massive 14-foot long, 8-inch diameter Jumbo Dark Star rocket made by Wildman Rocketry with a 98mm Cesaroni N2600 Skidmark motor. The launch was held on Friday to coincide with the anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight..
The payload was something very special to the Yoerg family and to American aviation history. The payload was a few squares of cotton fabric from the right wing of the original Wright Flyer aircraft that made aviation history. This cloth was the actual material that flew in 1903.
A similar piece of the cotton fabric used in the Wright Flyer was sent with the Mars Ingenuity helicopter aboard the Mars 2020 mission being part of the first aircraft flown on a foreign world.
It was amazing to fly a similar piece of history at our humble launch site for our members to enjoy on the anniversary of manned flight.
After securing the payload and verifying the recovery systems were in proper working order, the Hawk was taken to the launch pad and erected for flight.
Before the countdown, Keith gave a very moving speech with his mother, Janette Davis, present in the observation bunker.
118 years ago today, on the sandy windswept dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, my Great-Great Granduncles Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the first powered, heavier-than-air flight of a manned aircraft. A few small pieces of fabric from that historic airplane are ready to take flight again today, from the sands of the Mojave Desert, aboard ”The Hawk” an 8-inch diameter 14-foot fall rocket Honoring Aviation, the Wrights, and Kinetics. In 1903, this fabric reached a max altitude of 10 feet at a max speed of 10 feet per second. Today, that same fabric is expected to reach an altitude of over 7,000 feet with a max speed of 791 feet per second (or Mach 0.7).
We’re now ready to start the countdown.The sky is clear, the road is clear.
Flight 2 of “The Hawk” is launching in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…
The second flight of the Hawk was close to predictions reaching over 7,800 feet in altitude and 742 feet per second. The Hawk with its drogue and main parachutes working properly was fully recovered. Keith got telemetry data and provided screenshots of the results below.
Beckie Timohovich was a big help in the recovery efforts and bringing back the hardware to the launch site. She also makes really good Alaskan caribou chili which we all got to enjoy at lunch in the Dosa Building.
The 1515 rail launcher with its heavier base worked well and did not shift although the straps were singed by the hot exhaust and seemed to be superfluous. The parachute system on the Hawk deployed well and brought the vehicle down in tact. Most importantly, the family heirloom flown as a payload was returned to safekeeping.
Keith is considering his next flight of the Hawk. One idea is to fly an even larger motor if an O-sized motor will fit in the existing 98mm mount. The goal being to go faster and break the speed of sound and fly even higher. Keith was also pondering adding a second stage to the Hawk. We hope to learn his next plan in the new year as we hope to have another launch event in January 2022.
TWO MICROGRAIN ALPHA ROCKETS
We flew two alpha micrograin rockets. One by Keith Yoerg, one by Dimitri Timohovich. Each had a payload built by John Krell. These were the first zinc-sulfur rockets to be loaded and flown by Keith and Dimitri which although both them have been active members of the society for years, this experience served to initiate them into the RRS.
Dimitri was first to load his blue nose-to-red finned rocket and fire it while Wolfram Blume completed his assembly and preparations for the second flight of the Gas Guzzler two-stage rocket with a water ballasted ramjet upper stage. Keith Yoerg’s alpha with the bright pink nosecone and fins was the second of two alpha flights, Like with the Hawk before it, the RRS used our Cobra wireless firing system with the alpha rockets.
Keith edited the footage of both alpha flights into one compilation on YouTube. See link below:
A few days after the MTA launch event, John reported a summary of the results from the two different instrumentation payloads. His emails are paraphrased below.
On 12/17/2021, two Alpha rockets were launched. Both were instrumented with high speed flight computers. Dmitri’s Alpha (blue nosecone) carried an original Alpha Datalogger on it’s third flight and Keith’s Alpha (pink nosecone) carried a newer Adalogger design on it’s second flight.
The bad news first. The Adalogger SD card socket broke during its first launch. I did not catch this issue prior to this launch. The SD card fell out of its socket during the initial acceleration and no flight data was recorded from Keith’s alpha, The next design update will include a nylon post to prevent SD card ejection. Keith’s Alpha also incorporated a semi-soft shock absorption mounting. It didn’t work as well as planned, but it does show potential with two modifications. Damage to the Adalogger system was minimal and repairable.
Dmitri’s Alpha produced significant new data during the burn for a micrograin rocket. The thrust was relatively smooth and constant compared to the previous three Alpha launches that carried flight computers and returned data. Absent were the large acceleration bursts during the burn. (See attached graph)
Also recorded was the impact. The impact duration was measured at 16 milliseconds. This is the shortest impact duration recorded for an Alpha. A prior impact duration of 18 milliseconds produced a deceleration of 716 G’s. This impact deceleration should exceed that value.
Further analysis of the data is required to determine a value. A picture of Dmitri’s rocket in the ground prior to extraction will be helpful. (Photo was later provided.)
Motor burn duration 0.408 seconds
Maximum Acceleration 103.95 G’s at 0.304 seconds
Maximum Velocity 676 ft/sec, Mach 0.6 based on integrated accelerometer readings
Altitude at Burnout ~138 ft
Maximum Altitude 4,307 ft AGL by barometric readings
Terminal Velocity 463 ft/sec, Mach 0.411 based on barometric readings
My video records of Keith’s Alpha show a shorter burn duration equating to a higher acceleration and velocity. The altitude should also be higher with the shorter down range distance.
The still pictures at the end furnished the information necessary to estimate the deceleration at impact. Keith’s alpha’s penetration depth of approximately 3 feet 10 inches correlates to a deceleration rate of 680 to 720 G’s in a span of 18 to 20 milliseconds. Dimitri’s Alpha penetrated approximately 3 ft 8 inches into the ground in 16 milliseconds equating to ~900 G deceleration rate. Wow!!!
The main objective was to give all of our active members experience with micrograin rocketry. Although rarely practiced outside of the society, it is considered to be something of a rite of passage and also serves as valid experience with the unlimited category of rocketry. This event gave Dimitri and Keith this experience which will help them as they advance as pyrotechnic operators.
SECOND FLIGHT OF THE GAS GUZZLER RAMJET
Wolfram Blume brought his second build of the Gas Guzzler rocket to the MTA for a December test flight. The same booster section with an Aerotech K-motor was flown. The ramjet was rebuilt and was flying a 3/4 load of water in the gasoline tank to have a representative payload weight including any possible sloshing that might occur.
From the ground, it was clear that the booster flew straight and stage separation had taken place. The booster parachute ripped loose. The ramjet came down only under its drogue chute and the hard landing damaged the upper stage enough to warrant a complete rebuild.
Wolfram spent several days after the launch event looking at the remains of Gas Guzzler. A few things are known so far:
The addition of 1.14 kilograms of ballast water did not cause any problems. The two stages – both separately and together – were still stable in flight. Also the stage separation worked.
After separation, the booster came apart at apogee into two pieces. It is an easy fix as a bulkhead blew out and only needs to be better reinforced against the loads. A recent addition of a GPS tracker to the second flight of the booster worked.
The ramjet lost electrical power at apogee. The reason was found and will be repaired. The power failure meant that the GPS tracking stopped at apogee which is a serious problem. Wolfram is considering adding a backup GPS tracker to the ramjet with a separate power supply.
Based on telemetry, the deceleration seen after stage separation gave the drag coefficient (Cd) on the ramjet at 0.25. The accuracy of this calculation is about 10% based on the acceleration readings which is fairly good all things considered.
drag force = Cd * velocity-squared * air-density
The thrust also scales with the square of velocity and that gives the minimum velocity when thrust minus drag exceeds weight to be about 656 feet per second (200 m/sec). This is the minimum velocity which the booster must supply at burnout.
For this flight using the K-motor in the booster, with the water ballast, the maximum velocity was 574 feet per second (175 m/sec). The ramjet reached an apogee of 3,800 feet AGL (above ground level). The booster pushing the ramjet reached an apogee of 3,100 feet AGL. Maximum acceleration under boost phase was 6 G’s. The ramjet was flown without fuel, only an equivalent weight of water instead of gasoline.
The next build of the Gas Guzzler will have a larger booster which will hold an L-sized motor.
In the 12-17-2021 flight, the ramjet’s drogue parachute deployed correctly but the main chute did not. This seems to have been caused by the drogue chute being too small. Rockets with dual-deployment parachute recovery systems typically split the rocket in two places with the drogue ejecting forward and the main ejecting backwards. It is a good, reliable system but it cannot be used in the Gas Guzzler design because you cannot split the ramjet in the middle. Both of the parachutes must deploy from the front. The recovery system design requires the drogue to pull the main out of the ramjet at 1,000 feet. Wolfram developed this system on prior rocket with launches at ROC in Lucerne Valley and it has worked the last three launches. Wolfram is confident that it will work in the next flight of the ramjet, too.
The air flow measured inside the ramjet during the second flight on 12-17-2021 was within the range of an air blower system at Wolfram’s workshop that had considered using to static fire the ramjet with an operational burner. However, he is not comfortable with trying the main burner at his workshop, but testing the flameholder and its igniter is OK. Thus, a static test of a fueled ramjet coupled with an air blower system is being considered.
Going forward, once the ramjet is rebuilt, Wolfram would like to verify the performance of the igniter and flameholder over the full range of the air blower’s speeds in a static fire setup at the MTA. In this testing, he also wants to work on how quickly the flameholder ignites to avoid losing a lot of forward speed after stage separation.
Wolfram will rebuild the ramjet as quickly as possible and could be ready for another launch in February 2022. He would like to do another booster-only flight from the MTA to verify the fixes on that stage. If successful, then the next launch will try a flight with a short ramjet burn using roughly 5 seconds of gasoline fuel.
The society will peer-review the work done so far and find the best way to proceed. Wolfram is still evaluating the data and may have an update to this firing report later.
TESTING OF A GERB AS A LIQUID ROCKET ENGINE IGNITER
Dimitri and I have overseen a few recent liquid rocket engine static fires at the RRS MTA. Although there have not been any ignition problems, we had discussed different approaches to getting a safe and reliable start.
Liquid rocket engines sometimes have problems with achieving reliable ignition. Failure to ignite the cold mixture of propellants due to lack of sufficient energy or outright failure to light can create a serious fire or explosion hazard. One of the simplest approaches is to use a sufficiently energetic pyrotechnic device mounted in the engine throat from the aft side. Visible indication of the igniter firing should be confirmed prior to opening the propellant valves and releasing the stored pressurant gas.
There are a few different pyrotechnic devices that are good for this task such as lances and gerbs. Both require a special license to get. Dimitri, who has such a license and happened to have a couple gerbs that we could try. Lances have been used in prior liquid rocket engine firings and vehicle launches with success.
At this event, we decided to test a gerb to see if it would be appropriate to try in lighting a liquid rocket engine. We secured one to the top of the alpha box rail and fired it to examine the plume,
Our impression of the gerb operation was favorable in terms of its 20-second firing duration, but it seemed that a smaller gerb size might be sufficient. Smaller gerb sizes are available. There is also the long-term consideration of having these available for liquid rocket testing which would require a storage magazine. Other less complicated means should be explored.
Several of the attendees stayed behind to clean up the MTA and relax in the Dosa Building. This was the last launch event for our outgoing president, Osvaldo Tarditti, who has faithfully served the society for many years with his time, skills and leadership. We enjoyed the sunset on a mild and nearly calm winded day. It was a fine end to a great day at the MTA and what was our last event of 2021.
The latest meeting of the Reaction Research Society took place by teleconference on Friday, December 10th and had twelve attendees.
RECAP OF KEITH YOERG’S NOVEMBER LAUNCH OF “THE HAWK”
Keith kicked off the meeting with a recap of the first launch of his rocket “The Hawk” an 8-inch diameter 14-foot tall rocket that was flown from the RRS Mojave Test Area on November 28th. The rocket utilized the 1515 rail launcher which was secured in place to one of the concrete pads using sandbags and tie-downs. The motor was a 98mm Cesaroni M1790 Skidmark which features sparks in the trail.
Keith shared some slow-motion video of the flight captured with a GoPro camera and other data from the flight, including a 3D flight path. The rocket reached an altitude of 4,846 feet as measured by the barometer on the onboard AltusMetrum Telemega flight computer, and was successfully recovered with only minimal damage to the body tube. The rocket is in the process of being prepared for another launch on December 17th to coincide with the anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight.
RESULTS OF THE 2022RRS EXECUTIVE COUNCIL ELECTIONS
Election chairman Drew Cortopassi presented the results of the 2022 executive council elections. The RRS Executive Council for 2022 is as follows:
President: David Nordling Vice President: Frank Miuccio Secretary: Keith Yoerg Treasurer: Larry Hoffing
The society members in attendance congratulated the incoming new president and other incumbent officers and expressed their gratitude to outgoing president Osvaldo Tarditti for his stewardship of the organization. Osvaldo noted that the future of the group looks bright, and promised to send anyone who asks him a question a photo of him fishing.
USC SOLID ROCKET GRAINS STATIC FIRING
Osvaldo and Dimitri provided a recap of the lengthy solid rocket motor testing campaign that USC conducted at the MTA from December 4-5. On Saturday the 4th, the team worked through the night until around 2 am to be able to complete their goal of firing 20 separate grains of solid fuel by 2:45 pm on Sunday the 5th. The only reported mishap was that the U-Haul the USC team rented broke down just after leaving the dirt road to the MTA, which Dimitri suspected was because they had been using the battery from it to fire the rocket motors.
While the campaign was an ambitious one, the repetitious nature allowed them to get some of the younger students involved who wouldn’t normally be able to take part in on a day when only one motor is being fired. It was remarked that having more young members with hands-on experience is very good for the future of their program and the continuity of knowledge after the upperclassmen graduate. Dimitri mentioned that additional work will be needed to fill in the area of ground blasted away by all the recent USC solid rocket static firings – which has been affectionately named the “Trojan Trench.”
On the same weekend, a team at the FAR launch site launched their “Genesis” rocket – a hypergolic liquid propellant rocket that has been in development since the early 1980’s. Several RRS members had worked on the rocket at various times during its design and fabrication process. Unfortunately, the parachute system did not work and the tanks ruptured on the landing causing a small fire that self-extinguished but was visible from the MTA.
A THANK-YOU FOR DIMITRI’S RECENT WORK AT THE MTA
Our outgoing president, Osvaldo Tarditti, took a moment to extend a special thank you to RRS member Dimitri Timohovich for all of the recent work he has done in improving the facilities we have available at the MTA. Not only did he take the lead in the recent blockhouse roof repair which included several trips up to the site for the initial build, cutting the edges, and installing the tar paper, but he also donated four propane bottles for the society to use in the heaters and BBQ up at the Dosa Building.
In addition, Dimitri has agreed to take on the bulk of the work in building out the interior of the containerized bathroom. Three concrete pads have been poured at the MTA to accommodate this 20-foot high cube container as well as another one adjacent to it.
Osvaldo has procured most of the fixtures for the interior and plans to drop them off at Dimitri’s house – where the container will be delivered so that he can work on it more easily. Dimitri gave a tentative timeline of mid-January 2022 for when the container may be ready for transport out to the MTA.
PLANNING FOR MTA EVENT ON DECEMBER 17
Keith discussed his plans for a second launch of “The Hawk” on Friday, December 17th – this time on a Cesaroni N2600 motor. In addition, Dimitri has an RRS Standard Alpha rocket constructed and ready for launch and Osvaldo agreed to prepare one for Keith to get experience with the Zinc-Sulphur rockets. Dimitri volunteered to bring food for the group – award winning caribou chili made from meat they hunted, dressed, and prepped themselves in Alaska.
CALIFORNIA’S NEWEST ROCKETS CLASS 1 PYROTECHNICS OPERATOR
RRS member Dave Nordling informed the group that he recently learned that he passed his Class 1 Rockets Pyrotechnic Operator’s License exam. Congratulations Dave!
With additional members continuing to work towards earning their licenses, we can make sure that the RRS is able to accommodate a wide range of rocketry testing and schedule requests.
NEXT MONTHLY MEETING
As a reminder – yearly membership dues are due January 1st. Please click on the yellow “Donate” button on the right panel of this website to pay online via PayPal, or mail a check to the society post office box in Los Angeles.
Reaction Research Society; P. O. Box 90933; Los Angeles, California, 90009-0933
The next RRS monthly meeting will be held virtually on Friday, January 14th at 7:30 pm pacific time. Current members will receive an invite via e-mail the week of the meeting. Non-members (or members who have not received recent invites) can request an invitation by sending an email to:
Please check your spam folders and add firstname.lastname@example.org to your email whitelist to make sure you are receiving the meeting invitation.