Regeneratively Cooled Engine Challenge Committee Meeting Report – 1/29/2024

by Joel Cool-Panama, Secretary, RRS.ORG

The Regeneratively Cooled Engine Challenge Committee of the Reaction Research Society held a meeting online, 6:00 PM PST – 7:30 PM PST.

Executive Summary

  • The committee decided that ITAR certainly regulates regeneratively cooled engines
    • Society will not be responsible for enforcement of regulations
    • Main issue regarding ITAR is the export of information
    • Public information isn’t unrestricted by ITAR
  • The committee is unsure if US munitions list  impulse limitations apply to static fires
  • Rocket designs will be reviewed by inspection
    • Review engine design
    • Review test procedures
    • Committee to publish guidelines concerning test procedure, fuel systems, safety systems, and specific designs
  • Committee Chairman Rushd is to write a second draft of the competition rules
    • Key rules include:
      • Prohibition on copying commercial hardware
      • Teams must share their data with the committee, including raw CSV data, channel specifications, and corresponding calibration
      • Chamber pressure must be measured directly
  • Teams must provide their own thrust stand


Our meeting began with a review of documentation regarding other rocketry competitions. We believe that we can take a lead from some other organizations with regards to handling ITAR regulations. This is important to the RCEC because regeneratively cooled engines are not in the gray area of the law, they are clearly subject to ITAR regulations. It was noted that rules typically require ITAR compliance, but leave the responsibility for enforcement to the teams, the organizers typically distance themselves from this. It was suggested that we need to make our own rules more explicit in regards to this, that enforcement is not our domain, simply that we expect our competitors to do so as part of their due diligence.

Regarding foreign teams, we were mildly surprised to see that they aren’t necessarily excluded from these types of events. This makes sense, considering the primary concern is export of information. It’s this that is the primary goal of ITAR regulations, to restrict the export of rocketry information, which members such as Richard Garcia were certain to specify. A point was also made that even a US citizen can be restricted by ITAR if they work for a foreign company. A US person is a lawful permanent resident or citizen who doesn’t work for a foreign company.

A question was then posed as to whether or not these engines are necessarily in line with US Munitions List impulse thresholds. In short, it was concluded that we can’t be sure, since we don’t know if these limitations affect static fires or not.

It was mentioned by Dave Nordling that, just because some information is public, it isn’t necessarily free from ITAR restrictions. ITAR doesn’t necessarily make exception for publicly known information, so we still need to be careful when generally discussing rocketry among non-US persons. Unclassified public information can still be used for weapon technologies.

We then discussed how we will be reviewing the design of the competitors’ rockets. It was agreed that we can simply implement review by inspection. We will hold virtual design discussions, test procedure reviews, and first hand inspection on the day of competition testing. This will not only allow us to analyze system design, but can also be an ice breaker with the Society, and allow the teams to get familiar with our testing facilities at the MTA. It was suggested that we should write guidelines, concerning those particular areas of test procedure, fuel systems, safety systems, and specific designs. We can hold several for any team, holding different reviews for TRR, CDR, and so on. The more opportunities for feedback, the better.

It was then asked whether or not the first draft of the rules adequately protect the Society’s assets. It was ultimately determined that rule #31 covers this, while rules #17, #25, and #30 are also related to the good repair of the equipment and safety. More importantly, out of this conversation came an agreement that the rules should be rewritten, as Dave admitted that he had written them in a day, and likely hadn’t thought out organization, as his primary goal was to simply get the rules out before he left the Presidency. Rushd stated that he would draft a new revision of the rules, and would get back to us later.

It was mentioned that UCLA is already working on their design for this contest. Dave reported that he attended their PDR not long ago. He gave his feedback, which apparently wasn’t taken with enthusiasm, but Dave’s judgement carries weight, as the author of the rules.

In regards to the rules, we discussed some of the key points of the first draft. Among those were that teams can’t use designs derivative of commercial hardware. We hope that they come up with their own designs. It was also brought up that the teams are required to share their data with the judging committee, and that the “Microsoft” specification of the CSV format requirement needs to be removed.

In regards to equipment, it was decided that teams should provide their own test setup, and can use the MTA thrust stand.

Another, key aspect of the challenge’s requirements is that chamber pressure be measured directly. Dave defended his choices of 5 second burn duration minimum and 300 psi minimum, stating that 5 seconds certainly prevents burp fires, while admitting that 300 psi is somewhat arbitrary. He stated that halving it to 150 psi would certainly not be sufficient, but that his opinion is that it could be lowered a bit if the committee so chooses.

Then we discussed avoidance of Conflicts of Interests. It was brought up that some teams might be closer to some of the judges than others, in which case Conflicts of Interests may arise. It was stated that the members of the committee are to remain impartial regardless of their personal connections to the teams. Dave gave his personal practice, which is that he gives information freely, but only when asked for it. It was suggest that the best methodology for handling questions would be a public FAQ, and that the best medium would be through Discord. Joel commented that he intends to create a Society Discord server soon.

Finally, the committee ended the meeting by voting to appoint Dave Nordling and Richard Garcia as additional members of the committee.

No date for a future committee meeting has been set, but stay tuned.!