MTA Launch Event, 2021-09-26


by Keith Yoerg, Reaction Research Society Secretary


The RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA) hosted a launch event and work party on Sunday, September 26th. The USC Rocket Propulsion Lab (USCRPL) had arrived a few days earlier to prepare for a static firing of their 8″ diameter solid rocket motor named “Earthshaker II” which took place on the 26th. Several RRS members also answered the “Yoerg Challenge” to launch model rockets, and Dimitri was out with his water rockets. On the work side of things the Dosa building was re-organized, a security camera was installed, and a discussion began on how best to replace the aging roof on the blockhouse.

USCRPL 8″ SOLID ROCKET STATIC TEST

USCRPL had their setup ready for a static test of their 8″ solid rocket motor in the late afternoon, which was secured below the vertical test stand. Unfortunately, shortly after coming up to full power the motor exploded. All personnel were at a safe distance in the bunker and no one was injured. RRS President and Pyrotechnic Operator in charge Osvaldo approached the site once it was safe and extinguished the resulting flames.

Still shot from a video of the USCRPL motor explosion
Pyrotechnic Operator Osvaldo bringing a fire extinguisher to the lingering fires

All requests to use the RRS MTA must be made to the RRS president and reviewed by the executive council.  For any questions about this test series or any future test series, please contact the RRS president.

president@rrs.org

YOERG CHALLENGE MODEL ROCKET LAUNCHES

Many RRS members had model rockets on hand to answer the “Yoerg Challenge” and launch at the MTA site. Dimitri and his son Max launched a “Helios” and “Dazzler” on C6-3 motors. Keith launched a “Baby Bertha” on a B6-4 and a “Big Bertha” on a B6-2. Dave Nordling launched a “Baby Bertha” on an A motor. Bill Inman & Jon Wells also launched model rocket kits, and John Krell launched a model kit on a G motor. (I will endeavor to do a better job of recording the rockets & motors that everyone uses at these launches for more specific reports in the future).

Keith Yoerg, Bill Inman (on the launch box), Waldo Stakes and Diana Castillo wait as the countdown progresses.

We did not have the new wireless Cobra firing system at the MTA site during this event, so we used the 4-pad controller that Dimitri built earlier this year. The controller split its time between this low-power launch pad and the water rockets which Dimitri had set up on the underground blockhouse.

Several of the model rockets ready to launch on the PVC launch pad built by Keith Yoerg

I will also mention that prior to these launches, we enjoyed a nice potluck BBQ of brats, (homegrown) potato salad, chips, beans, and corn. Several members contributed food which was expertly prepared by Becky. We’ve been doing this more often and seem to keep getting better at it every time!

WORK PARTY TASKS

In addition to the more exciting “fiery” aspects of the day, RRS members also completed a lot of routine maintenance at the MTA site. We completed several general organization tasks in the Dosa Building and the storage containers, and a security camera was installed on the Dosa Building. There was also a lengthy and robust conversation about methods to replace the aging blockhouse roof, which has been high on the the society’s list of desired site improvements for several years.

Keith Yoerg and Jon Wells discuss options for repairing the old blockhouse roof.
Security camera installed on the Dosa Building

September 2021 Virtual Meeting


by Keith Yoerg (RRS Secretary)


The latest meeting of the Reaction Research Society took place Friday, September 10th and had 16 attendees, including several members of the University of Michigan Aeronautical Science Association (MASA) team which conducted a long campaign of testing at our MTA site last month. After brief hellos & a short discussion on updates to this website, we got the meeting rolling with a presentation from the MASA team debriefing us on their August tests.

Screenshot of discussion during the monthly meeting

PRESENTATION ON MASA CAMPAIGN AT THE MTA

4 members of the MASA team who were present for the long campaign of testing at the MTA site were at the meeting and provided a presentation detailing how the nearly 2 weeks of work went for the team. A detailed write-up from RRS member Dave Nordling who was on site assisting for some of that time is available here.

MASA logos – Tangerine Space Machine is named after a craft brewed beer local to the Michigan area

While the end goal of conducting a hot fire test was not accomplished, there was a ton of great work and learning opportunities for both the MASA team and the RRS. The first challenge for the MASA team was in driving their equipment all the way from Michigan to Southern California. Unfortunately, they had some equipment suffer damage during the trip when their smaller “Ground Support Equipment” (GSE) trailer broke through the plywood floor of their larger travel trailer. This required them to stop in Texas and complete repairs to the travel trailer before continuing on to the MTA site.

Once at the site, the MASA team set up a 2-shift schedule (9am – 6pm and 5pm – 12am) effectively working 18-hour days to conduct the activities required for their tests. Many of these tasks took a lot longer than the team had anticipated, in particular with the supply and delivery of the gas & cryogenics needed. The MASA team was originally in contact with Airgas, but their communication was with the office closer to their home in the Midwest and not the Southern California branch. Ultimately sorting through those issues proved to be too difficult to secure a delivery while the team was at the MTA, but fortunately they were able to work with Praxair to secure a supply of the gas and cryo.

MASA presenting a great photo of nighttime work at the MTA to the members at the September meeting

Once the gas and cryogenics were at the site, the team was able to complete pressure tests of the fuel side of the system, and were ultimately able to perform 2 coldflow tests through the entire system near their target pressures. These tests revealed many more areas for design improvements that the team hopes to implement, including reducing fittings, changing the location of vents and drains, and possibly even replacing the LOx and fuel tanks.

Improvements the MASA team hopes to implement

This campaign goes down in the books as the longest to ever take place in RRS history, and proved to be challenging for both the MASA team and the RRS. Several society members graciously volunteered their time to help make this testing effort possible, and the experience revealed many ways that the society could improve our procedures to better support extensive tests like this. Namely: limiting the duration of a test period to no longer than 1 consecutive week, requesting that some members of University staff be on-site when these long campaigns take place, and requiring a longer notice time before approving this sort of test were all brought up by RRS president Osvaldo.

PERMANENT BATHROOM

Progress is continuing on the permanent RRS Bathroom structure. Work on cutting holes for doors and windows has been completed on the 20-foot shipping container and delivery is expected imminently to the new work site at Wilbur’s hangar. The next stages of construction including adding plumbing, fixtures, and the doors and windows, and Osvaldo has already acquired some of these items to install

View from inside the container with the doors and vent windows installed

SEPTEMBER MTA EVENT & WORK PARTY

The USC Rocket Propulsion Lab (USCRPL) plan to be out at the MTA site from Friday, September 24th – Sunday, September 26th to conduct a static fire of an 8″ diameter solid rocket motor. The first few days will consist of prep work and the firing is planned on that Sunday. Several members including Bill Inman and John Krell indicated in the meeting that they have stepped up to the Yoerg Challenge and built model rocket kits to fly at the MTA. This will give us a great excuse to test out the new PVC wire rail launchers as well as the newly purchased Cobra wireless firing system.

In addition, the society has decided to use Sunday, September 26th as the date for our annual “Work Party” to perform maintenance and cleaning tasks at the MTA site. The expected tasks we would like to complete are:

  • Weld the plate on the vertical test stand
  • Removal of dry vegetation
  • Move drum of RP1 (from MASA testing) into one of the lockable containers
  • Fix the 2 broken latches on the Dosa Building roll door
  • Prep/measurements in area for new container bathroom

YOUTH ROCKETRY CLASS

RRS Vice President Frank updated the membership on the upcoming youth rocketry class in Boyle Heights with details on the schedule and overall plan. As opposed to 2 alternating classes, we will now be working with a single class of up to 30 students. The classes will run every Friday starting on September 24th, with a launch planned at the MTA site on November 13th. The plan is for each student to build their own Estes Baby Bertha kit and fly it twice on launch day. RRS Secretary Keith is currently working on 3D printing fin alignment jigs for the students, which will help in both teaching the students about that technology as well as properly installing straight & aligned fins on their rocket kits.

Several of the 3D printed fin alignment jigs

MISCELLANEOUS DISCUSSION

The end of the meeting consisted mostly of miscellaneous discussions around the various projects that RRS members are currently working on. Some of the highlights included John Krell’s new, very small (20x80mm) electronics board capable of collecting 7 channels of data onboard a flight, with over half of those channels at 500 Hz! Bill Inman updated members on the progress with his Solar Cat steam rocket, and there was a brief discussion of ham radio operations with Tom Hendricks sharing some of his wealth of knowledge in that subject. Overall it was a fun meeting with a lot of good discussion & participation from the membership.

NEXT MONTHLY MEETING

The next RRS monthly meeting will be held virtually on Friday, October 8th 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:

secretary@rrs.org

Please check your spam folders and add secretary@rrs.org to your email whitelist to make sure you receive the invitation.

MTA Launch Event, 2021-08-28


by Dave Nordling, Reaction Research Society


The RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA) was used by the student group, Michigan Aeronautical Science Association (MASA) of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  Given the remoteness of the RRS MTA and the great distance that the Michigan team was willing to travel, MASA had planned an extended test campaign to use the site for their cold flow and ultimately hot-fire their RP-1/LOX 2,550 lbf liquid rocket engine.  Originally planned for a week, the team arrived on Monday, August 16th, and continued to use the MTA site through August 28th.  In the end, Michigan faculty called the end of the MASA test series as the new semester was starting and many materials needed to be returned before MASA left southern California.

The MASA logo on the back door of the mobile trailler.
Initial checks of the mobile propellant supply trailer. Over the road travel loosened a lot of plumbing joints.

MASA is a new student group to the society and had very ambitious goals in what they wanted to accomplish in the planned test series.  Typically, the RRS will work with new universities and new clients over a period of many months before agreeing to a first test series at the MTA on a weekend campaign.  Proper planning is an essential requirement for success and the RRS must become thoroughly familiar and comfortable with all planned use of the MTA site.  Like with all attendees to the MTA, indemnification waivers were required from all attendees including spectators.  MASA limited their staff to only essential personnel and ran a day and night shift to both safeguard their equipment through the night and provide continuous support to prepare for the next day’s events.  The team was able to find rented housing accommodations in the local areas of California City and Ridgecrest.

Nate Campbell verified valve functions in conjunction with the mobile control trailler.
The MASA control room was well equipped and was able to safely and remotely conduct test operations.
More leak checks under the rising moonlight and electric lamps at the RRS MTA.

MASA has had a couple years of experience with their propellant flow systems in laboratory tests at the university and was willing to hold several meetings with RRS members sharing their full test procedures and schematics, and answer questions posed by RRS pyrotechnic operators in advance of their arrival.  The MASA fluid systems had many appropriate safety features and used high quality valves and parts.  MASA has developed a control system that uses motorized needle valves in place of a pressure reducing regulator for independent propellant tank pressure controls.  MASA had conducted many tests of this system and held several tests to confirm proper operation in the early steps of their MTA campaign.

The MASA liquid rocket engine, RP-1 and LOX, rated for 4300 lbf thrust but the hot-fire goals of this campaign was 2550 lbf.

MASA’s system designs also had some problems with the nitrogen compressor (booster) system being unable to operate due to a regulator failure. The team was able to bypass the unit, but it limited the top pressure of the blowdown tests to the bottle pressure (2000 psi). A few changes were necessary for vent line routing to improve operational safety. Remote pressurization operations were safely executed but proceeded very slowly and thus a great degree of boiloff in the LN2 limited run time.

The composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) originally was intended for compressed natural gas service in ground vehicles. These vessels have a good safety record in demanding applications and are often used in de-rated aerospace applications.
The MASA team made several changes to their vent line routing for improved safety.

The event was successful in some respects that it gave the students a practical understanding of how to conduct test operations under desert conditions.  It also revealed some of the shortcomings in their plumbing design (leaks) which they were able to fix well enough to get to cold flow with cryogenic LN2 and water on the last day of testing (when this report is dated).  The cold flow tests provided useful data in their control algorithm which will be useful to the next series of tests.  MASA also gained experience in safe cryogenic tanking and operations with these hazardous fluids.

MASA team proceeded into LN2 tanking of their oxidizer propellant tank for the cold flow test through their engine and plumbing.

Logistics was a big challenge for the MASA team due to errors in their communication with local suppliers.  Nitrogen and helium gas bottles were significantly delayed and cryogenic liquid nitrogen cylinders also were very late to arrive at the MTA.  Some of these problems can be easily mitigated for the next test campaign now that relationships have been better established. While MASA was disappointed with some of the outcomes from the test series, they are interested in returning to the RRS MTA in the latter part of this calendar year.  This follow-on test series will be discussed at length in the coming months.

A gang of nitrogen bottles sit chained togeither in a pressurant feed manifold.

The society was similarly challenged in supporting this MASA campaign.   The society is grateful to everyone who assisted at the MTA (Osvaldo Tarditti, Waldo Stakes, Bill Inman and myself) or those who gave their comments and concerns (Larry Hoffing, Jim Gross).  Several members spent multiple days at the MTA both during the week and on weekends.   The RRS provided the necessary oversight during the hazardous portions of the testing campaign which was particularly difficult to schedule during weekdays.  The MASA team was very open and disciplined in their interactions with the society.  The RRS was also glad for the University of Michigan’s support and communications throughout this event.

It was a challenging event which was made possible by the contributions of many RRS members over many days.  Frequent communication between MASA faculty and the RRS was a firm requirement on all days of this tenacious campaign and the MASA team provided daily briefings on their progress.

The MASA team showed tremendous dedication and perseverance sex shop over this extended campaign in the summer heat of the Mojave deset.
Cold flow testing complete with pressurized LN2 through the oxidizer path and water through the fuel path.

This testing campaign and current RRS policies will be discussed at the next monthly meeting, 9/10/2021.  Pursuant to our mission statement, the society is glad to support projects of this kind to universities capable of conducting safe experiments at our unique testing site and to those who are willing and able to provide the society with sufficient advance notice to review their reports, schematics and inspect their hardware.  This campaign is firm proof that we will need more licensed pyro-ops and more members available to support any similarly extended test series in the future if they are accepted by the council.  By building and enforcing a consistent and fair policy for all new and prior clients, the RRS can better operate to the benefit of everyone.

All requests to use the RRS MTA must be made to the RRS president and reviewed by the executive council.  For any questions about this test series or any future test series, please contact the RRS president.

president@rrs.org




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