MTA Work Event, 2024-02-17

by Joel Cool-Panama, Secretary, RRS.ORG

This is a summary of the goals and accomplishments at the MTA work event of February 17, 2024.  In attendence were members Dave Nordling, Bill Inman, Bill Nelson, Osvaldo Tarditti and Joe Dominguez.  The society facilities manager, Dimitri Timohovich and our director of research, Rushd Julfiker also attended.

Dave Nordling and Bill Nelson assembled kitchen shelving units in the Bldg 14 office.  The society food stuffs and kitchenware were moved into the newly organized office. A desk and file cabinet are expected to arrive once suitable items can be found.

Osvaldo Tarditti worked on the shower in the restroom facility, Bldg 12

Dimitri moved the new diesel generator into the 10-foot locking container, newly designated “G2”.  Weld repair of the 60-foot launch rail structures began on Sunday, 2/18/2024.

Next work event is planned for March 2, 2024, to continue many of the same tasks.  American Artist and representatives of LACMA will be visiting the MTA on Thursday, March 7, 2024.  Keith Yoerg’s drone footage of the MTA in its most recent configuration was very helpful to the production team.

Next monthly meeting will be held March 8, 2024 as always on the second Friday of each month at the front office of the Compton/Woodley Airport.

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.!

MTA Work Event – January 20th, 2024

by Dave Nordling and Joel Cool-Panama, Secretary, RRS.ORG

The RRS held a work event at the Mojave Test Area (MTA) on Saturday, January 20th. The primary purpose of this meeting was to give Joel Feree, our contact with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), an in-person tour of the whole MTA, so that he could get an idea as to what we were working with for our collaboration with American Artist which will involve the recreation of the 1936 Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT) prototype liquid rocket engine. This was Joel Ferree’s first time at the MTA and he gained much insight into how we’ll be seeing the project through. Dimitri Timohovich also used his experience in the film industry to highlight some practical aspects for the production. Following this meeting, Dave Nordling, Dimitri, and Joel Ferree came up with a timeline for the project. Dave Nordling, serving as the project leader, is working hard to get hardware ready for an initial firing by our membership at the MTA. Once the system is proven to work reliably and safely, the static firing of this replica will be the centerpiece of the filming to take place at the MTA.

On the same day, four student representatives of Loyola Marymount University’s rocketry team came to meet with Dave Nordling. They intend to build a custom hybrid motor, which they plan to static fire at the MTA. Dave gave them some points on their motor and feed system designs, which they can certainly appreciate, given that this is their first experimental rocket project. Rushd Julfiker and Dave will continue to advise the team on their propellant loading system and ignition system, and they may well use a firing box of Dimitri’s design.

While there, Dave and Dimitri worked on moving some of the society assets from the Dosa Building to the new Bldg. 14 office container.  This was done partly to declutter the working space, in order to make it into a meeting and workspace once more. If the lease does end next year, then Polaris will be removing many items of theirs which are also in the Dosa Building, including refrigerators, stove, and laminar flow bench. Polaris is required according to the terms of the lease to notify the RRS Executive Council of the movement of their assets.

According to Dimitri, a company called Tortuga Industries has reportedly bought 183 acres of land along Munsey Road. According to the rumors, they are looking to turn their parcel into a private duck hunting reserve, complete with a large pond.

Dimitri also reported that Crisalli is taking the initiative to fix the northern road running along the eastern side of the MTA property. Gordon has so far filled in the trench near the northeastern corner of the property, removed the concrete barricades, and installed a gate across the road. He has reportedly been using this northern route himself, dragging it several times in the process. He reports that the 4 miles of the northern road leading to the highway is now certainly passable, albeit the creek bed is still soft as of this writing. The RRS still recommends all visitors and users of the MTA continue to use the western (Munsey) road from Cantil until further improvements can be made.  The RRS MTA has access gates along the eastern border but they are rarely used.

Next monthly meeting will be February 9th.

Next work event at the MTA is planned for February 17th. This will depend on planned Polaris operations which could close the access easement road. Coordination with Polaris will be required.