Today, January 6, 2023 marks the 80th anniversary of the Reaction Research Society.
Founded in 1943 by George James, this small club of young boys gathered in Glendale to study and conduct experiments in reaction propulsion. It all began with a child’s chemistry set that included zinc and sulfur powder as a demonstration of exothermic reactions. This would lead to rockets and newer propellants and ever increasingly complicated experiments in the remote northern areas of Los Angeles from Mint Canyon to Rosamond to our present location east of Koehn Dry Lake. Many members of the Reaction Research Society have pursued professional aerospace careers making important contributions to the field.
In the war years of the 1940’s, rocketry was more the subject of science fiction and speculation than the robust science it is today in the early 21st century. Our society has seen eight decades of growth as a collective group of enthusiasts and colleagues supporting research and offering shared testing spaces while remaining dedicated to responsible projects and scientific progress. It is with pride that we share this milestone with the public on a bold new year of launch, facility improvement and looking forward to the future.
Our month meetings are held at 7:30pm on the second Friday of each month by teleconference and in person at the front office of the Compton/Woodley Airport on Alondra Blvd. in Compton. For details, contact the RRS secretary.
The Reaction Research Society held it’s monthly meeting by teleconference on Friday, October 8, 2021. Some of our members were on travel, but the those in attendance were able to discuss several important issues.
The USC RPL static fire event on 9-26-2021 was safely conducted but ended in a explosion and fire which was ably contained. This was a good example of careful preparations and good management of the people present for the event. A firing report has been posted for this event. Osvaldo Tarditti was the pyrotechnic operator in charge that day.
UCLA had requested the use of the MTA on 10/16/2021 for their next liquid rocket engine test. The MTA was already reserved for Bill Claybaugh’s solid rocket flight that same day and in the days leading up to the event. Dave Nordling was the pyro-op in charge, A firing report for this event will be posted,
UCLA is planning to hold their conceptual design review (CoDR) on 10/22/21 for the next iteration of their liquid rocket. RRS members Dave Nordling and John Krell plan to attend.
Wolfram Blume was on the call and said he was eager to return to the MTA for a second flight attempt of the Gas Guzzler ramjet. With the summer heat gone, he hopes to return at our next launch event which is still being planned. It is hoped that the society can continue their streak of having at least one MTA event per month as we have done since the start of 2021.
The restroom container was purchased and brought to the Compton Airport for interior construction. This 20-foot high cube has a 9.5 foot ceiling and should be able to have two individual rooms with toilet and sink, one of these to have a shower stall. Osvaldo had drafted a floor plan and this was approved by the council. The society will be meeting at the Compton Airport on Saturday, October 23rd, for a late morning barbecue and an in-person discussion of the materials needed to get the restroom interior built. All members are welcome but please notify Keith, Wilbur, Xavier or Dave Nordling if you’re coming as they have access to the airport.
There was some discussion about the septic system and leach field. It is important to maintain an appropriate distance from any nearby water wells, one of which is on Polaris Propulsion property. Sufficient clearance exists based on measurements made and EPA guidelines. The leach field will be positioned to drain away to the north.
The society is considering buying a concrete septic tank but RRS member Wilbur Owens may have a plastic septic tank already available for the society. Some members feel a concrete septic tank will last longer and be less likely to leak. The council is still debating this feature and should render a decision soon.
The society also discussed the water supply to the restroom container and the supporting structure needed to hold a tank on top of the container. There are many important facets to this infrastructure addition which must be weighed carefully.
Nominations for RRS executive council offices will be held at next month’s meeting, November 12th, 2nd Friday of the month at 7:30pm. An election chairman will be selected beforehand and this person must be an active member not holding office nor running for office. A special email address will be set up for the election chairman to gather votes from our active administrative and lifetime members. Results to be announced at the December 10th meeting and new terms to start January 1, 2022.
For any questions, please contact the RRS secretary.
The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held its monthly meeting on Friday, August 9, 2019, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. We were glad to welcome a new member to the society, Drew Sherman. Frank mentioned that the latest educational event with LAPD CSP was going well and that we can expect the next launch event to take place on Saturday, September 21st.
We began our meeting with the call to order and reading of the treasury report. This August meeting would try to catch up on topics intended for past meetings.
 MTA launch events since the last meeting
The first topic on the agenda was discussion of the recent launch events held at the MTA since our last meeting. The RRS hosted Operation Progress at the MTA on July 13th. The launch report for this last event with the LAPD CSP program has already been posted.
UCLA held its second of two high school rocket launch events at the RRS MTA on July 31st. This was supported by Osvaldo Tarditti and Larry Hoffing as the six teams flew and recovered egg payloads using model rockets with “G” sized commercial motors. The event was a great benefit to the young participants and a welcome change of pace as the RRS welcomes model rocketry and amateur rocketry alike.
RRS members, Jack Oswald and Cooper Eastwood, had a launch event at the RRS MTA on August 3rd, delayed 2 weeks from the original July 20th date. The “50 for 50” rocket was built to reach 50,000 feet on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Jack’s large solid motor was impressive as he and his family worked hard at the event to get his rocket ready for flight.
A last minute inclusion was a radio tracking package made by Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) member, Joe Conway. Joe was kind enough to allow his tracker to fly in Jack’s rocket as his device was not operational. Our fellow amateur rocketry enthusiasts at FAR came over to assist in the launch and the RRS was glad to have their participation.
Jack’s rocket weighed in at over 82 lbs with 30 lbs of AP composite propellant in four Bates grains within his booster. With a team of four to six people, the booster and instrumented payload section were assembled and loaded into the rails.
Unfortunately, the “50 for 50” rocket flight was a failure and the booster exploded shortly after ignition. Based on the film footage, ignition of the motor was achieved and the rocket lifted about two to three feet within the rail before an over-pressure event ruptured the booster and destroyed a great deal of the launch rails. No one was injured in the firing, but there was a large amount of clean-up to be done. We were very thankful to all of our attendees for their attention to safety and assistance in carefully gathering for disposal of the unburned propellant scattered from the violent end of this rocket.
Given the extensive damage to the rails, refurbishment will be costly. The RRS is already assessing plans to replace the necessary parts to restore this large adjustable rail launcher very soon.
Jack is preparing a report of his entire build processes and some theories regarding what happened and what could be done better. This report will be submitted to our membership, but Jack will be unable to present his findings in person as he will be leaving for his freshman year at MIT. Even in failure, it’s important to keep good records. The RRS is a scientific society which insists on good record-keeping and sharing knowledge to make each project better than the last.
It was an amazing effort by a group so young. They had great support from many people and sponsoring organizations who donated money and resources to completing their rocket for this test. The RRS was proud to help our members achieve a great learning experience and in time, try again.
Going back to the MTA launch event of July 13, Brian Johnson was able to present a summary of Kent Schwitkis’ trajectory analysis of the Compton Comet alpha rocket flown that day at the MTA event for Operation Progress and LAPD CSP. Kent did a thorough analysis of the optically measured positions of the alpha as it left the rails within the view of the footage taken. Using the video footage taken of their alpha fired from the RRS MTA box rail, careful scale measurement of key landmarks in the background, the software program can make reasonable estimates of the position, velocity and acceleration of the rocket as it is seen and timed frame by frame in the video.
The optical measurement approach provided some direct confirmation about the starting acceleration (95 G’s) and burnout speed (200 m/sec) of the RRS standard alpha flown that day. Kent Schwitkis’ method has great potential. The best course of action would be to conduct further tests of this kind to get a larger data set to confirm the statistical accuracy and variation between similar alpha rockets flown. The society will have this opportunity at the next event planned for September 21st.
 RRS standard liquid and the TAM project
Richard Garcia, our director of research, has created a prototype design for a simple liquid rocket that after some initial trial and error could become a standard project at the RRS much like the alpha and beta have become for micrograin solid propellant. Richard has created a materials list and the society is in the process of acquiring the necessary items and will begin construction of the initial prototype. For now, it is too early to say what this standard design will look like, but as many past members have built their own liquid rockets over the years, the RRS can draw upon a sizable base of past knowledge to create a modest liquid rocket that is both powerful and practical for future members to try.
I have been working with a small group at the Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM) at the Compton Airport. This project has a simple goal of creating a ground testing system to hot-fire a surplus LR-101 vernier motor. TAM has acquired a few of these kerosene and liquid oxygen LR-101 motors which have internal cooling passages and are made for long duration firings. Although the engine is already made, building the necessary regulated pressurization system and valves will be the primary challenge. This work can easily benefit other liquid rocket projects.
 RRS social media improvements
This is a regular agenda topic to be discussed at each meeting with the goal of finding ways to improve our presence in social media platforms and on the internet in general. Bill and Alastair, our two media coordinators, were both absent at this meeting so this topic will return next month as planned.
We’ve had a few new posts on our Instagram feed with recent events. Bill Behenna recommended that on flyers for future RRS events, the addition of a QR code to link back to our official webpage or other important information is something we should do.
 Pyrotechnic operating licensing at the RRS
The RRS has been working with CALFIRE on having more of our membership becoming licensed pyrotechnic operators to better enhance our operations and foster amateur rocketry in general. Osvaldo Tarditti, Larry Hoffing and myself have all been working through the licensing process. We encourage more of our membership to spend the time to prepare their applications and gather letters of recommendation necessary to begin the process. This will be a slow process, but as more pyro-op’s at the RRS become available, more able our society will be to hold events and support other rocketry groups in their projects.
 New RRS alpha payloads
The RRS holds many launch events throughout the year with Los Angeles area schools thanks to our partnership with the LAPD CSP. These events have from six to twelve alpha rockets flown from the RRS MTA at the conclusion of each program but they have empty payload tubes. This represents a great opportunity to fly more payloads.
John Krell has been working on an instrumentation package that can record high accelerations, barometric pressure and capture high speed data all in a compact package that fits in the tiny confines of an RRS standard alpha rocket. There are many commercially available instrumentation packages for model rockets which have larger plastic bodies Given the smaller internal diameter of an RRS standard alpha rocket, many of these great devices simply do not fit. John’s design seeks to make use of the latest instrumentation chips all in a long thin compact package ready for use in the RRS alpha. With luck, his device should be ready for flight at the next RRS MTA launch on September 21, 2019.
SImilarly, Brian Johnson, in partnership with Kent Schwitkis and Compton College, has been working on an instrumentation payload of their own design for the RRS standard alpha. The first flight of his payload on July 13, 2019, was not successful as it failed to start recording. Brian has worked to improve the design, but the fundamental principles were sound. A second flight of this design at our next launch event at the MTA on September 21, 2019, should prove to be successful.
 Discussion of the next RRS symposium
The RRS opened discussion about the possibility of holding another symposium in the next calendar year, 2020. Previously, the society had decided not to hold another symposium after 2019 until two years later for both reasons of cost and resources necessary to conduct the event. While the society has not formally decided whether or not to have a 2020 RRS Symposium, the executive council did decide to study the matter further based on continued success and enthusiasm by past attending organizations.
The RRS will make a decision on this matter before the next meeting. If the RRS does decide to proceed, we must begin preparations in the latter part of the year to allow sufficient time to contact participants giving them time to prepare for a symposium in the spring as was done since our 2017 RRS symposium. Further, full engagement of our membership will be critical to keep this string of successes going strong.
As the meeting adjourned, RRS member, Mohammed Daya showed us the two model rocket bodies he purchased at a Northrop-Grumman swap meet recently. These were built by a retired rocketeer who wanted his hobby to go to another enthusiast.
As these two rockets only need some minor repairs and suitably sized commercial motors to be installed, we hope Mohammed will be able to launch them from the MTA on September 21.
The RRS will hold our next meeting on September 13, 2019. We plan on discussing three very important subjects:
(1) RRS MTA facility improvement plans including a new restroom facility, a new blockhouse and replacement of the large box rails damaged in the August 3, 2019, launch attempt.
(2) Discuss the initial draft of the updated Constitution as presented to our attending membership by the 2020 RRS Constitutional Committee.
(3) RRS decision on the next symposium.
If there are any questions, please contact the RRS secretary.