MTA Firing Event, 2022-09-10

by Dave Nordling, President, Reaction Research Society


The University of Southern California (USC) Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL) conducted a series of six propellant sample burns for characterizing their latest mixture. I was the pyrotechnic operator in charge for that day. New member and former USC RPL student, Michael Rouleau, was my apprentice that day.

Careful installation of the grains.

Testing took place in the horizontal configuration on our repaired pad with the new 3/4” female pattern using a load cell and chamber pressure transmitters reading from the bulkhead in a modular nozzle can configuration.

USC RPL’s ”Kiwi” subscale propellant grain testing rig.

USC RPL has had several motor failures in recent times which has led this year’s team to try a better known and safer recipe. COVID-19 played a role in creating a knowledge gap. This year’s team hopes to reclaim a success when the full static fire motor is tested at the RRS MTA in a little more than a month.

One of six successful grain firings.

MTA Firing Event, 2022-07-31

by Dave Nordling, President, Reaction Research Society


The University of Michigan came to the Mojave Test Area for another static fire campaign starting Monday, July 25th and ending July 31st. Pyrotechnic operators, Jim Gross, Osvaldo Tarditti and myself supported this protracted campaign in the July heat. The weather was challenging during that week with few heat-related problems other than slow progress which is understandable given the conditions. New RRS member, Rushd Julfiker, and long time member, Jim Gross, assisted me in the cold flow and hot-fire testing. MASA’s academic adviser, Professor Mirko Gamba was also present at the MTA for the days of cold flow and hot-fire testing.

University of Michigan held a Test Readiness Review on Sunday, 7/17/2022, with RRS members present. Many good questions were raised but few corrections were needed. MASA proceeded with packing and departed campus for the MTA on Friday, 7/22/2022.

University of Michigan first day at the Mojave Test Area

The team arrived at the MTA on Monday night (7/25/2022) and began to unpack their gear and assemble the mobile test trailer. Leak checking went more smoothly due to design improvements. Problems with the igniter channel would prove to be a recurring concern.

Initial setup of the mobile trailer at first arrival.
Attaching frequently used tools by retractable tethers means never hunting for the right wrench again. Genius.
Hewlett-Packard film crew prepares to have interviews with the students.
Control trailer operations leading up to test.
A clean injector ready to be installed.
Fuel transfer operations before next test.
230-liter cryogenic liquid cylinders from Linde.

On Friday (7/29/22), gas bottles and cryogenic liquids were recieved from the supplier. Delays in receiving these consumables allowed sufficient time to verify systems were ready. MASA achieved significant progress towards hotfire after completing four valve timing coldflows and one abort test. Analysis of the data from our tests in preparation for hotfire tomorrow.

The RP-D2 engine sits on its thrust stand.
University of Michigan’s mobile test trailer beside the vertical test stand

Saturday (7/30/22) was the first attempt at hot-fire which was unsuccessful due to an igniter failure. The cause was traced back to an intermittent problem with the switch in the junction box. The prior igniter test demonstrated the igniter would fire in the cold flow conditions the day before. Comparing data sets, the team found that a simple verification of continuity in the voltage data stream during the countdown would safely identify a failed igniter firing circuit and allow a safe abort if it were to repeat.

RRS members Jim Gross and Rushd Julfiker examine the setup before the next test attempt.

In the last hour of the last day (Sunday, 7/31/22) of the campaign, MASA completed a successful 1 second hot-fire of the 2,000 lbf RP-D2 engine. The chamber and injector remained intact and the system safed itself properly.

Screenshot from the 1-second firing of RP-D2 as seen from the Garboden bunker

After examining the data, pressures were significantly off from the expected profile, but the engine passed the visual inspection After further consideration, the team opted not to proceed with a longer 4-second burn due to the uncertainty about our data values and pressure drops seen from hot-fire. MASA would conduct a more thorough examination of the data and hardware back at the university.

The MASA team began cleaning up the test site on Sunday night and continued throughout the night to prepare for the 1800 mile jouney home. University of Michigan was extremely happy with the result of their campaign and were grateful to our pyro-op’s and membership that supported every day with the MASA team.

The RRS was glad to provide our testing site, resources, experience, labor and insight to this successful testing campaign.

For inquiries about using the RRS Mojave Test Area, contact the RRS president.

president@rrs.org


MTA Launch Event, 2022-07-21

by Chris Kobel and Larry Hoffing, Reaction Research Society


On Tuesday, July 19, 2022, 31 interns from various departments within Aerospace’s Engineering Division gathered in the Building D8 cafeteria to construct mid-power rocket kits. The kits were based on the LOC Precision company’s HyperLOC-160 model kits which utilize a 1.6” diameter airframe, plywood fins, and a 29mm motor mount, along with other requested custom modifications.  Under the tutelage of Aerospace Corporation, Astrodynamics department retiree, Chris Kobel, along with his son James (both RRS members), VDID’s Isaac Goldner, Jeff Lang and his son Chase, and the Propulsion Science Department’s, Andrew Cortopassi (former RRS secretary and member), the interns successfully constructed the kits over a 2.5 hour period, while discussing various aspects of aerodynamics, propulsion, stability, recovery, and construction techniques.  A second session was held the next day for three interns who couldn’t make the first session.

                On Thursday, July 21, 2022, approximately 35 interns left Aerospace early in the morning on chartered buses and made the journey to RRS’s MTA facility in the Mojave Desert.  They were accompanied by the Aerospace Corporation build team, along with VDID’s Jerry Fuller and Sophia Martinez as well as Carah Fukumoto from University Relations and Recruiting.  The RRS treasurer, Larry Hoffing, acted as the Pyrotechnic Operator in charge for the event.

Under calm and clear skies, but with increasing temperatures reaching a high of 106 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately 45 flights were made, mostly successful.  A new 5-rail launch pad provided by Aerospace Corporation was paired with the RRS MTA’s Cobra Wireless firing control system to handle the rocket flights.  A few of the early flights indicated some slight instability which was addressed by adding ballast to the nose cones of the rockets (using desert sand!) moving the center of gravity (CG) forward to increase the margin of stability.  The sight of some rockets were lost as they departed the launch wires in a somewhat sideways direction out over the desert or on a direct trajectory towards a blazing sun. 

Jeff Lang and Chris Kobel with the five station launch rail system built by Aerospace

A demonstration flight of Aerospace’s C-LINK technology was marginally successful as the booster performed flawlessly, but the payload separated incorrectly and ended up powering into the ground. 

Following the launch activities, the interns were treated to a terrific launch at the Voyager restaurant at the Mojave airport, welcoming the cool air-conditioning and ice cold drinks. Overall, it was a long and hot day, but a very successful outing with an enthusiastic response from the interns.