Our June meeting was held by teleconference on June 12th starting at 7:30pm as planned. Some people did not seem to get the email link with the information to call-in. As always, members are responsible for keeping their contact information current including their emails. Please contact the RRS treasurer with your updated contact information so that all active members can be on distribution.
We had over a dozen people calling in which is a fairly good turn-out under these quarantine circumstances. Some of our members actually appreciated being able to call-in rather than travel all the way to Gardena.
Chris Lujan, our treasurer, was able to set this meeting up for us. Based on the success of the last two meetings, the RRS will make teleconferences a regular part of our meetings even when we return to in-person meetings. It allows more of us to connect around our local area. Many of us miss the face to face interaction which we hope will return some day soon.
Dave Nordling and Larry Hoffing gave an update on the next flight of the hybrid rocket. A new rocket body is being made and a better means of ignition will be attempted that should more reliably sever the nitrous fill line.
Wolfram is still working on subsystem tests of his Gas Guzzler ramjet. He has rebuilt damaged parts and is conducting burner tests to verify important aspects of his design. He may not return to testing at the MTA until October 2020 when the weather is likely to be cooler.
John Krell has built a pair of custom avionics chips that can record altitude and accelerations at rapid data rates (1 kHz). They are small enough to fit in a standard alpha payload tube. Integration activities are underway. Frank has many of the recovered alphas in storage which often have their payload tubes intact for re-use after some clean up.
Keith Yoerg recently retired his latest rocket after 10 flights and achieving certification with it. He may start a new build but that remains open.
Next MTA launch date was tentatively set for July 25th. We hope to fly some alphas including one with a longer propellant tube (4-feet) in order to compare the results from John’s avionics.
Bill Inman has decided to rejoin the RRS after being away for many years. He was the builder of the Scalded Cat steam rocket and is working on a new design iteration to fly soon at the RRS MTA. A reprinting of his March 2001 article on the Scalded Cat will soon post to our website for those wanted to see this work in detail.
The next monthly meeting of the RRS will be July 10th. We are presuming this to be another teleconference only unless LA County lifts the quarantine restrictions and the Ken Nakaoka Community Center re-opens.
Waldo Stakes will be holding a memorial service for Mad Mike Hughes at 12 noon, July 18, 2020, at the 247 Cafe in Lucerne Valley, CA. Mad Mike was killed in the last flight of his steam-powered manned rocket flight outside of Amboy, CA, on February 22, 2020.
Mad Mike wasn’t a member of the RRS but he was one of our exhibitors at the 2019 Symposium last year. He had his rocket, the Juan Pollo, on display and many people had the chance to meet him. He will be missed by his family and friends including some of our membership.
The RRS held a launch event on Sunday, March 1st, 2020, at the Mojave Test Area. It was a brisk morning with steady winds that occasionally slowed enough for a safe launch.
This launch event was originally for a university static fire and a few member projects. The university had to reschedule but we had sufficient interest from our own projects so we held the event.
The weather was a concern with passing storms and rain predicted earlier in the week. But as often happens, the weather shifted for the better on launch day with winds staying low enough to launch most of our projects.
Wolfram has been working for a few years on his Gas Guzzler ramjet rocket. He is just now entering the first system flight tests to demonstrate the staging and recovery systems. He filled his ramjet with water in place of the gasoline to have a representative weight.
Wolfram was able to load his booster on to the 1515 rails with good alignment. His upper stage had some alignment problems due to using a different prototype for this initial flight. After some examinations on the pad, he pulled his rocket stages back to the Dosa building for internal adjustments to assure a clean fit between the booster and upper stage.
The next launch was Keith Yoerg’s high powered rocket, Charlie Horse. He used an I-350 Smoky Sam motor and had a dual-deployment system with a GPS tracker built in. The flight was smooth off the rails but the trajectory data seemed to show a steady wind pushing west to east. He reached an apogee of around 4000 feet. Recovery wasn’t a problem as his rocket landed just a hundred yards east of the RRS MTA.
Wolfram returned his rocket to the pad but accidentally dropped the second stage breaking a piece of the ramjet plastic cowl on the concrete below. With this significant disruption of the aerodynamic surface, he was forced to abort the flight and rework this part. He was also going to check some of the other parts in his assembly for this long-awaited first flight. It’s important to not rush a project and wait until all is ready for a successful flight.
The next flight was to be the hybrid rocket that Larry, Osvaldo and I have been working. The Contrails H222 motor was safely loaded from last month and after some improvements to the vehicle body for better parachute recovery functions, we felt we were ready.
The winds were still favorable so we proceeded with clearing the area and making our electrical connections back to the old blockhouse. With just a handful of people and the lightweight vehicle, the old blockhouse was sufficient for our operations that day.
The nitrous bottle was refilled from the prior week and the manifold was plumbed to the vehicle tank. With the opening of the nitrous bottle, remote operations could begin. The time of tanking the small 38mm H-motor tank was not precisely known, but was not expected to take very long given basic calculations of the available flow rate. As expected, the tank volume primed within 15-20 seconds. We waited a full minute as we were initially unsure of whether the full volume was filled with liquid. After spotting a jet of liquid escaping from the vehicle body vent, we were assured that the hybrid motor was ready to be ignited.
Osvaldo conducted the firing operation after a short five-count. The resistor and Pyrodex charge ignited after a slight delay for the resistor to heat up sufficiently. The motor seemed to reach full thrust quickly and leave the rail as expected from the thrust curves from this commercial motor.
The vehicle was spotted tumbling after leaving the rails leading us to believe the rocket was not properly balanced. More detailed calculations would have been beneficial, but from initial estimates and the heavier recovery system in the extended rocket body, it was believed the rocket would be stable enough.
Examination of Osvaldo’s high speed camera footage from the hybrid flight revealed the reason for the vehicle tumbling. Some of the frames show that the nitrous fill line remained attached to the rocket during launch and even after clearing the rails. The fill line did snap loose in the flight at some point, but it was supposed to completely sever at ignition. This imparted a significant torque to the vehicle leading to a tumbling and short trajectory back to ground.
Worse, in my rush to get the hybrid loaded on the rails and made ready for filling operations, I forgot to arm the recovery system. This is a classic mistake and one that I could have easily avoided.
At least, the other issues with the flight limited the distance the rocket travelled. The rocket was recovered just north of the 1010 launch rail still within the bounds of the MTA. The rocket landed on its nose breaking it and significant body tube damage was sustained. After disassembling the hybrid motor from the body, we opted to scrap the rocket body and rebuild a new one for the next flight. The fill and fire operations were successful and the equipment we built worked fine.
The Contrails H222 motor parts survived well. We were able to easily remove the motor assembly and disassembled the parts for inspection. The graphite nozzle showed very little ablation and will be reused. None of the parts had heat damage. The fuel grain didn’t exhibit much ablation as compared to the other unburned grains we had. The burn duration in flight seemed to be similar to what is shown on the thrust curve, but this should be reviewed against the flight footage.
More review of the flight footage will be necessary to better understand how the hybrid motor operated. We are considering changing the ignition method to use an electric match and maybe a shape charge that would better ignite the hybrid motor.
We are considering building a static testing rig for the hybrid motor to verify some changes we intend to try with the ignition. There will be more on this subject in later reports.
Larry Hoffing had built a custom composite solid rocket motor using a spent casing from a commercial solid motor. This simple end-burner grain also had a custom-made nozzle. Larry had suspended his experimental motor a length of metal piping threaded on our large adjustable box rails that is still undergoing refurbishment.
Unfortunately, Larry’s motor design was not successful and rapidly overpressurized scattering both end caps and propellant grain fragments across the desert floor. No fires resulted from this static firing failure and no serious damage was done to nearby structures used for this demonstration.
The last launch attempt was Keith Yoerg’s smaller model rockets using the tiny B and C motors. The winds became stronger as the day progressed and by that time sustained wind levels were too high for any launch particularly for such a small vehicle. These rockets would be saved for a later event and Keith began examining his Charlie Horse rocket and its camera footage.
It was a good day for the RRS to have a launch event exclusively for our member projects. We plan to hold more of these events for both universities and our membership very soon.
The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held a launch and static fire event for three UCLA teams and one of our own RRS teams at the Mojave Test Area (MTA) on Saturday, 2/22/2020. Poor weather was a persistent threat from the day before with light rains coming and going from the early morning hours and even throughout the launch day. Winds calmed just enough for a successful rail launch of UCLA’s solid rocket motor. Fortune favors the bold and this proverb did not disappoint our participants that day at the MTA.
With the liquid and hybrid rockets, Osvaldo Tarditti, our RRS president was our pyro-op in charge. I served as his apprentice for this event as part of building my experience for becoming a pyrotechnic operator 1st Class. This was the second of two apprenticeships I have served under two first class pyrotechnic operators. Osvaldo gave our safety briefing to all of our attendees that day before beginning the scheduled events.
UCLA had three projects ready for flight or static-fire at the MTA. The first was the solid motor driven rocket built by the UCLA Project Prometheus team. They were using a commercial K-sized motor with a vehicle equipped with a downward-facing camera built into the lower body.
Elizabeth, the UCLA team leader for this solid rocket project assisted me with the launch preparations. The rail launched rocket worked perfectly and the recovery system operation was visually confirmed as it descended to the west of our launch site.
Larry, Osvaldo and I have made progress on improving the 2-1/2 inch rocket with a commercial H-sized hybrid motor. Larry made an extension on the payload tube to fit all of the recovery system more easily. We have the Contrails H222 motor fully integrated and ready for loading.
Our nitrous bottle was refurbished and reloaded for the testing and we successfully conducted a valve test of the manifold that verified that our control box works well. We were reworking the black powder charge and repacking the parachute when the weather shifted and the winds picked up.
The weather was perfect 15 minutes earlier with the launch of UCLA’s solid motor, but at the time we were discussing launch of our hybrid motor it became clear the weather would be getting worse and winds too strong for launch of a smaller rocket such as ours. Since the RRS will be returning to the MTA site on Sunday, March 1. We figured we would do some minor improvements to the payload packaging and try again when we are fully confident and hopefully with better weather for the flight.
UCLA’s hybrid rocket team under the same name, Project Prometheus, sought to static fire a commercial M-sized hybrid motor as part of getting ready for a flight later this semester. They secured their test stand vertically to our historical I-beam location which was the original article from even before the RRS moved to the current MTA site in 1955. The RRS was glad to assist UCLA in securing to this location and making ready for nitrous oxide fill operations then ignition for static fire measurements.
Hot-fire of the hybrid motor took place around 5pm which by all appearances was a success. The motor case was intact and post-flight assessments looked promising, but an error in data acquisition resulted in no thrust measurements being recorded despite successes in pre-test checkout. UCLA is considering re-attempting this testing at the RRS MTA very soon.
The last of the three projects would be the static fire of the liquid rocket for Project Ares. The liquid rocket team mounted their hardware to the vertical test stand simultaneously as the hybrid rocket team mounted to the I-beam thrust stand. Both teams worked hard to be ready before the other but in the end, the liquid rocket took longer to be ready.
This would be a second attempt to static fire their liquid rocket system from 2/1/2020 at the RRS MTA. UCLA had been finding and fixing leaks in their pressurization system in the weeks leading before this test.
They proved their fixes before departing to the RRS MTA, but again ran into problems with leakage in the pressurant system. After several more repairs and discussion with the team and pyro-op in charge, the decision was made to proceed. All other systems had passed checks and the leak rates measured were consistent and would only reduce the burn time while assuring safe engine hot-fire.
Around 5:30pm in the last light of that long day, UCLA’s liquid rocket was proven in a brilliant, steady and powerful hot-fire of their ethanol-LOX propellant liquid rocket. It was an exciting time which showed reasonable thrust results that led UCLA to conclude that the testing that day was sufficient to proceed with flight vehicle integration operations for their motor.
UCLA did a great job of cleaning up at the site. They also returned the LOX dewar back to the nearby Friends of Amateur Rocketry site. We’re thankful to everyone who made this day a triple success. Our next launch event is scheduled for March 1st. We’ll also discuss this and our other recent MTA events at the next RRS meeting on March 13, 2020.