The latest meeting of the Reaction Research Society took place Friday, August 13th and had 12 attendees who came and went, including a prospective student member. We had a lot of topics to discuss and some members had to leave early so we got right down to society business from the start of the meeting.
YOUTH ROCKETRY CLASS PLANNING & UPDATES
The RRS starting to plan for youth outreach classes – which have been on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, due to the delta variant the LAPD classes that were being planned for September at the Strive learning center have been postponed. However, it looks like we are on track to begin classes with the Boyle Heights YMCA after labor day.
This class is expected to have up to 60 students – which will be split into 2 groups that will attend every other Friday at 4pm on a rotating schedule. The current plan is to hold 5 classes per group, which means the program will run for 10 straight weeks. Any RRS member interested in helping during these classes will be required to complete a LiveScan background check. Please contact Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details if interested.
The current plan is for each student to build their own “Baby Bertha” model rocket manufactured by Estes. The EC is currently organizing logistics to allow each student an opportunity to fly their rocket twice (assuming the first launch is successful, of course!) at our MTA site in late October or early November. In addition, we are looking at the instructors building a high power rocket in tandem to show the similarities and differences between the construction methods. A demonstration flight of the high power rocket would be held on the same day as the model rocket flights, to give the kids a sense of what a more powerful flight would look like.
Discussion at the meeting included ideas around fast-drying non-toxic glue options for the model rockets, 3D printed fin alignment jigs to ensure arrow-straight flights of the kits, and logistics around the launch day like adding more low-power launch pad capabilities to the MTA site. We may also try to add an onboard camera to the high power kit to show the students a view of the ground falling away from onboard the rocket!
PERMANENT BATHROOM & OTHER MTA UPGRADES
Progress is continuing on the permanent RRS Bathroom structure. Work on cutting holes for doors and windows has been completed on the 20-foot shipping container and delivery is expected imminently to the new work site at Wilbur’s hangar. The next stages of construction including adding plumbing, fixtures, and the doors and windows.
RRS president Osvaldo informed the membership that he purchased a forklift attachment for the backhoe that is stationed in the Mojave desert – which will be a great help with moving tanks and other heavy items that are often required for liquid rocket tests at the MTA. Members also discussed upgrading the launch structures at the site, including an idea for an adapter to allow Alpha and Beta micrograin rockets to use the same rail system and moving over the large launch tower from the “graveyard” on the northern end of the MTA to a more permanent & upright location.
AUGUST MTA LAUNCH EVENTS
After a short review of the July MTA events (writeups by Dave Nordling can be found here and here), members were briefed on the “long campaign” work that is underway by the University of Michigan rocket club “MASA” this month. While typical events at our desert site last only 1-2 days, this campaign is expected to run for 10 or even 14 days total. The exact length of time that they will be at the site depends on how quickly they are able to meet their objectives.
The ultimate goal of the campaign is to conduct a static, hot fire of their 2,500 lbf (10s total impulse) liquid rocket engine. The engine runs on RP-1 and LOX, and utilizes liquid nitrogen and helium as pressurants. Several RRS members and Pryotechnic Operators have generously volunteered their time on both weekdays and weekends to assist the student team in meeting their goals. A writeup of the events will be posted to this site after the testing.
OSVALDO’S MICROGRAIN ROCKET AVIONICS
RRS president Osvaldo Tarditti provided a show-and-tell of his screw type avionics switch, a very clever way to activate onboard rocket electronics when space is at a premium. This is certainly the case in the RRS Alpha and Beta micrograin rockets – which this switch was designed for. The basic mechanism uses 2 sets of electrically separated nuts with wire leads soldered on, which are epoxied to a bulkhead and affixed to the inside of the rocket’s nosecone.
When a screw is inserted – the circuit is completed between the nuts and the attached electronics turn on. With proper placement of the bulkhead and a hole drilled in the nosecone, this screw can be installed from the outside of the rocket just prior to launch.
Osvaldo completed the avionics package with a mercury switch and a cheap timing circuit board with multiple programming options. When placed together and activated on the launch pad, the mercury switch is jostled during launch which starts the countdown on the timing circuit board. When pre-programmed with the proper timing delay, the timing board countdown will coincide with the apogee of the rocket’s flight path and deploy a parachute. The hope is that this will allow for a more consistent recovery of Alpha & Beta rockets after launches.
CESARONI TECHNOLOGY / CESARONI AEROSPACE
Late in the meeting we were joined by RRS member and rocketry entrepreneur Anthony Cesaroni, who told members more about his companies and the time he spent at the MTA back in the 90s. With locations in Toronto, Florida, and Spaceport America (New Mexico) Anthony’s companies are major players in munitions, solid rocket motors, and even liquid engine components for Virgin Galactic. Among the major projects underway currently is a full 4-stage orbital vehicle, with hopes of full launches from Wallops and Kennedy Space Center in the 2023/2024 timeframe. Members were very excited welcome Anthony back into the fold and hear about the great work his companies are doing.
RRS WEBSITE UPDATES
The final topic of the evening was regarding updates to this website. The general consensus among members was that it is time for a fresh look and modernization to the website, and there was a robust discussion of the different avenues (and associated prices) that could be pursued. Anyone interested in helping to make this a reality can contact RRS secretary Keith at email@example.com.
NEXT MONTHLY MEETING
The next RRS monthly meeting will be held virtually on Friday, August 11th at 7:30 pm pacific time. Current members will receive an invite via e-mail the week of the meeting. Non-members (or members who have not received recent invites) can request an invitation by sending an email to:
Please check your spam folders and add firstname.lastname@example.org to your email whitelist to make sure you receive the invitation.
Dave Nordling, Secretary, Reaction Research Society
The Reaction Research Society (RRS) met for our last monthly meeting of the year on December 13, 2019, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, California. We had a full house with three different universities represented and a few returning members who came out to see how this year was ending for the society. The Compton College STEM club came out and some of them joined the RRS that night. Compton College is working on their own liquid rocket build which may next year see some important testing conducted.
Frank Chandler who is the director of Cal Poly Pomona’s (CPP) liquid rocket group and an RRS member was also at the meeting to discuss a March test date at the RRS MTA. He mentioned that Cal Poly Pomona recently had a tour of the AstroPak company in Downey, California. AstroPak has been in the business of cleaning mechanical parts for oxygen service for many years. The CPP students got to see each step of the process and learned the importance of maintaining this cleanliness throughout operations. Nearly all liquid rocket projects have decided to use liquid oxygen which has it’s own challenges to meet. Studying and keeping good cleanliness practices is paramount to avoiding catastrophe.
We also were happy to have our director of research, Richard Garcia, calling into the meeting. Frank Miuccio and Chris Lujan have been very helpful in establishing a call-in number for some of our former and current members to call in when they are away from the city. We hope to have more of our membership calling in so that they may remain informed and active with their membership in the society. As per our tradition, we always value those making the trip to visit us in person.
After calling the meeting to order, and the reading of the treasury report, we covered our agenda items. We covered nearly all of our agenda and had time for special presentation from two members of Long Beach Rocketry at California State University Long Beach (CSULB). The purpose of their visit was to introduce themselves to the RRS.
Corey Fraga and Dan Dao gave us a short presentation of their team and some of their recent accomplishments. Their solid motor rocket project started in 2015 and has done well in recent competitions including the NASA University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) taking fifth place among a long list of worthy competitors. They also brought their most recent prototype vehicle which has a quadricopter drone built into the cargo bay. After the rocket completes its flight and gently touches down from its parachute recovery system, the cargo bay opens from an electric motor driven mechanism which allows the drone to take off and survey the landing site. The idea is to create a system that could be useful in planetary exploration or even in remote or dangerous areas here on Earth.
The Long Beach Rocketry group offered to give the RRS a tour of their lab facilities on campus. The RRS graciously accepted their invitation. We should hopefully announce a date soon for this event.
 Results from the last MTA launch
The launch report from the December 7, 2019, event has already been posted. We had a successful event despite an earlier concern for bad weather. Thankfully, the rain fell early and had cleared by Saturday morning. We were able to get our equipment set up for the event, but the society needs to invest in a simple sumping pump in case we need to remove any standing water from our bunkers or other enclosed spaces that have failed to drain from a recent rain or flooding. We are thankful to our neighbors at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) for letting us borrow their sump pump.
I also noticed that we could use a few more cinder blocks in the blockhouse. Many of our students are too short to see over the wall and the few blocks we already have are not enough. The RRS should buy a few more cinder blocks and possibly make some standing benches to help our students see their hard work better from the safety of the observation bunker.
Another observation made was the students from the neighboring Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) site were often seen walking around too close to the RRS launching site as we were conducting road and air checks for our alpha rocket launches. It appeared that they were searching to recover their rocket from their prior flight, but we aborted three different countdowns due to car movements seen, or people crossing by on the north road adjacent to our property, and even one oblivious individual who was walking downrange of our own RRS MTA launch site as we were in the count!. The RRS and FAR must better coordinate our launch and recovery protocols respecting each others’ boundaries if only for the safety of all people concerned.
FAR and the RRS often conduct events on the same day and since our societies are sharing the launch areas and have many common interests, the RRS will work with FAR to find the best approach to assure safety and smooth operations for all.
 Next events at the MTA
Frank Miuccio is already working on the next event with LAPD CSP. The program will likely have its first class possibly on the Friday after the Martin Luther King holiday. Five to six weeks later means that the launch event could take place in late February or early March 2020.
I’ve been planning a launch event at the RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA) much sooner than that. For too many years, the RRS MTA sits empty in January and February for no good reason. I sought to undo this trend by holding an event just with our membership the way that our society used to operate.
At first, I was able to confirm Wolfram Blume who wants to fly his booster and ramjet upper stage system, if only for a system test of his booster, staging mechanism and recovery system. The ramjet upper stage will not be fired and will be loaded with an equivalent weight of water in its gasoline fuel tank to get the correct balance of the final vehicle. It’s a bit of risk to fly the actual ramjet prototype but there is no better way to get the right aerodynamics. It should be a good test and with luck his systems all pass the first flight test at the RRS MTA.
Larry and I have been talking about integrating a commercial hybrid motor into his 38mm fiberglass rocket. If I can acquire the motor parts, Larry will help me get the recovery system and the rest of the motor mounting complete. This will be the first hybrid motor launch from the RRS MTA in a very long time.
Also, John Krell voiced his interest in re-flying his improved avionics payload in an RRS standard alpha. This one will have an expanded accelerometer range to catch the ultra-fast burn of the alpha. He’s working on improving the data rate as recent open-source software changes have downgrading the sampling by half for some inexplicable reason.
Brian Johnson and Bill Behenna each have avionics packages in development. The RRS has plenty of alpha boosters ready if members can get their payloads integrated into a suitable payload tube in time. We hope to confirm the launch manifest by New Year’s Day so I am hopeful we will have a fun launch day on January 18, 2020. We have also spread the word to our university project teams that the RRS MTA will be open for testing or flights if they can be ready on this date early in the year. The RRS encourages all teams to plan ahead and test early and often to assure their later success.
 Progress on the 2020 RRS symposium
Frank Miuccio, our vice president and symposium coordinator, has had some difficulties in confirming the symposium date, but we are hopeful that the April 18, 2020 will be the symposium date. We also may have the option for April 25, 2020. The Ken Nakaoka Community Center of Gardena will hopefully confirm the date for our symposium Monday.
The Long Beach Rocketry group and the Compton College STEM club have both indicated their interest in presenting or exhibiting at the 2020 RRS symposium. In many cases, it can be first come, first serve. This will be the fourth symposium in a row for us and we hope to continue the momentum we’ve built. I have a few government and private companies in mind to give us a great slate of speakers. We just need to confirm the symposium date.
 Treasurer’s report on the membership roster, dues payment policy change
Chris Lujan has been surveying the sign-up sheets from past months over recent years to help establish who has been attending meetings and how often. Active membership requires participation in the society as it does with any group. Attending monthly meetings is not the only means of staying active as attending launch events or participating in outside events also qualifies. The RRS is working on building a firm definition to make clear when a member is or is not active. This is important as our Constitution requires both an administrative membership class AND active membership to retain voting rights. Each year, we try to reach our past and present members but without effort on the member’s part to keep their information current, our elections and voting on important measures must go on without them. Contacting any member of the RRS executive council is the best way to keep the society updated on your whereabouts and contact information.. The membership roster is managed by the RRS treasurer.
Chris is also working up some percentages for how many of our active membership are current with their dues payment. Initial estimates are encouraging, but since we have many new members who paid upon their induction, these high percentages make sense. It is our longer term members who are often neglecting their duty to keep their dues paid each year. Dues payment is also an essential element of membership.
The executive council has voted a policy change to when dues are to be paid. Effective immediately, all dues payments must be made by January 1st of each calendar year. I was glad that the society has supported this firm fixed date which makes accounting for dues much easier on our treasurer. The membership roster will also track dues payment and active membership status. For the several lifetime members in the society, this past membership class will remain and dues payment is not required for these persons, however, remaining active with the society is still a requirement to keep voting rights.
 2020 Constitutional Committee report
Frank Miuccio was able to report that the 2020 Constitutional Committee has met a couple of times in the last two months and is reviewing the last page of the new draft. The committee will present its draft to the executive council at year’s end. The executive council will review the draft before presenting it to our administrative membership for consideration and a subsequent two-thirds ratification vote.
 Social media updates
Our social media coordinators were both not in attendance in December. The RRS continues to be active on Instagram. Our Facebook page needs some management. The RRS is also looking at trying to build a calendar feature on the RRS.ORG website to better announce events.
The RRS continues to use WordPress for its ease of use and simplicity, but the society has been considering reformatting and restyling our page or at least re-organizing the menu options to make finding common things easier. This will be a task for the new RRS secretary.
 CSFM committee on amateur rocketry
The California State Fire Marshal’s (CSFM) office has been holding hearings with the broader pyrotechnic operator’s community throughout the state this year. Most of the community is made up of the fireworks and special effects community. Amateur rocketry is a smaller and separate group which has our own interests we operate very differently from the other larger groups.
Mark Holthaus of FAR has been reviewing the definitions pages of the California laws relevant to amateur rocketry. The RRS and FAR have met on three different occasions in the last two months. The RRS has found FAR’s proposed changes to be very reasonable and accurately reflect how we can continue to operate safely. We have also included feedback from members of the Rocketry Organization of California (ROC) at the last two meetings. David Reese of ROC has been particularly helpful in improving and clarifying the language which governs our hobby and we are also grateful for his assistance.
Mark has made arrangements to discuss our proposed changes with the CSFM office on Monday, December 16th. We hope this informal meeting goes well and that all of our recommendations can be implemented which will assure both safety and legal operations for our groups. Some of the amateur rocketry groups are not national organizations and would be harmed by excessive regulation from the state. The CSFM office has been very welcoming and open to ideas thus far. CSFM has not often held these kinds of reviews and the RRS recognizes the great opportunity we’ve had to help shape policy for everyone in rocketry in California.
 RRS executive council election results for 2020
Larry Hoffing, our appointed election chairman for this annual election cycle, certified his results to the membership at our December 2019 meeting as required per our Constitution. Each officer was elected by unanimous vote. Our new executive council officers starting in January 1, 2020 are as follows:
Osvaldo Tarditti, email@example.com
Frank Miuccio, firstname.lastname@example.org
Drew Cortopassi, email@example.com
Chris Lujan, firstname.lastname@example.org
The RRS is grateful to our election chairman, Larry Hoffing, for fulfilling his duties to the society. The council will appoint a new chairman next November when we hold nominations for the next election cycle. The society is thankful to our new and returning officers who have stepped up to serve the society for this next exciting year, 2020.
 Proposed RRS MTA standard fee schedule
The RRS has become increasingly active with more and more requests to use our Mojave Test Area (MTA). This is a very good thing, but often scheduling of hot-fire events has become excessively chaotic. The RRS understands that sometimes things happen that can force cancellation of a planned event with little or no notice. Weather is often the main culprit of such things. However, as one who has participated in coordinating launch events at the MTA this year in conjunction with our RRS president, I have seen many occasions when poor planning is the only reason for a last minute cancellation. Worst yet, the society has also received far too many last minute requests for use of our site. The RRS is in the process of drafting a standard fee schedule which will explain the requirements for outside users of the MTA. The exact details of this forthcoming policy are still under discussion, but the following is some of the ideas that were discussed.
The RRS is happy to help as many organizations as we can, but our customers must understand that:
(1) We are a volunteer society. Few, if any, of us are paid for the substantial time and resources spent to make these events possible. While we often generously donate our time to support and promote these events, the society needs money to operate and improve our site and this must come from charging fees to pay for repairs improvement projects. A standard fee schedule will be drafted, reviewed and approved by the society before the end of the year.
(2) We operate the RRS MTA by APPOINTMENT ONLY! There is no sign-up calendar like what is used by other amateur rocketry organizations such as FAR. We operate in this fashion because we stress the importance of advanced planning. Last minute requests for using the MTA site will very likely be rejected. Rocketry is a dangerous hobby and the importance of careful preparation is reflected in the desire of the RRS to accept only advance notification for all proposed projects. This not only makes planning events easier for all parties, but it makes them safer. Contact the RRS president for all requests to use the RRS MTA.
(3) Our indemnification forms are required to be signed and submitted by ALL PERSONS well in advance of attending the event. This includes spectators, spouses, significant others, and children. This has been standing policy at the RRS MTA and will remain so. Just showing up at our MTA site on the day of the event is NOT acceptable and people will be turned away if our policies are not respected.
(4) We expect several weeks advance notice to conduct a thorough review of each new project. This means that all groups must have their operating procedures, checklists, drawings, schematics already prepared for the pyro-op’s review when the request is submitted.well in advance of the requested event date. Expecting the pyro-op to examine your intended test article and procedures for the project only on the day of the event upon their arrival is NOT REASONABLE.
Events at the MTA will be conducted with a pyro-op appointed by the RRS. Our pyro-op should have had the opportunity to see everything well planned and well in advance. Attending RRS monthly meetings is an excellent way for potential users to familiarize themselves with the society and our expectations. Submitting your project description on an RRS standard record form a month in advance and was formerly policy at the RRS. Everyone must understand that the pyro-op in charge can refuse any test at any time for any reason making your journey out to the MTA all for naught.
Based on an accumulation of both good and bad experiences, I will undertake a project to draft an official RRS policy on testing at the MTA for our outside customers that will take affect on January 1, 2020. I was glad to get a lot of feedback from potential customers and other members at the December meeting. To our society members, please send me your feedback soon as I will be working this policy out in the next two weeks before the executive council approves it.
The RRS will begin charging standard daily fees for use of the MTA site and charging a separate daily fee for the pyrotechnic operator in charge at this event. Pricing may vary with private companies and universities, but in all cases, fees are expected to be paid before approval of the event is given by the RRS. Cancellations within two weeks of the event will result in forfeiture of all of those fees for that event date and new fees must be paid again for a new test date. When customers stand to lose their fees if they fail to deliver on their commitments to the RRS, they will better understand the importance of managing their projects better as they must now avoid the cost of cancellations. Other groups, both amateur and professional organizations, operate successfully with these kinds of policies and the RRS will be enforcing their own policies soon.
 Review of the Gas Guzzler ramjet project
Wolfram Blume and his wife were kind enough to stop by the December RRS meeting bringing his booster rocket for one more inspection. I will be the pyro-op in charge of his first test flight on 1/18/2020 and I wanted a closer look at how secure and stiff his fins were. Based on my inspection, his booster looks ready for rail launch. With luck, his staging and recovery systems will function without issue. Wolfram has borrowed from prior successful designs flown at ROC events in Lucerne Valley. The RRS is glad to assist him with this ambitious project.
 Solid propellant making classes
The RRS was approached about restarting our composite grain propellant making classes at the RRS MTA. After some careful assessment of our equipment, resources and available personnel, the RRS is not yet ready to offer these classes again. Twenty years ago, the society held a few of these solid motor building classes which became very popular. The RRS is building back our capabilities and this will take some time.
The Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) has offered similar classes at their site and for the time being, the RRS must refer interested parties to them.
 SuperDosa project update
The SuperDosa project was established two years ago with the intent of the RRS restarting our large solid motor building skills to progressively build larger vehicles able to not only breach the von Karman line (100 km ASL), but surpass the current amateur rocketry altitude record holder. Despite our increasing membership, we have not had much progress to date. Given my commitments to several liquid rocket projects, I am handing over my leadership duties to Drew Sherman. Drew is a founder of Leo Aerospace and also an active RRS member. His interests very much align with this project and with the combined resources of others in the society building high powered motors, we hope that Drew can continue this project to its lofty goal of bringing the title back to the Reaction Research Society.
 RRS MTA facility improvements
Osvaldo Tarditti, our society president, continues to lead our MTA facility improvement projects, chief among those is improving our bathroom facilities at the site. Osvaldo has drafted plans for an improved bathroom facility at our remote RRS MTA site. The RRS will be soliciting bids from local contractors soon and we hope to commence this important improvement at the MTA sometime this spring and complete by the summer. The society has nearly enough funds for this project, but we are hoping to receive a few more thousand dollars to initiate this project sooner than later.
Also on our list of improvements is a blockhouse replacement, horizontal mounting plate at our testing area to create a regular interface pattern for future users rather than continue the unregulated drilling of anchor bolts (and the hated “male” variety of these anchor bolts) into our concrete slab. RRS members, Dmitri Timohovich and Wilbur Owens have been supporting the society on this improvement as it will require heavy equipment to place and secure this trench plate at the RRS MTA.
Larry Hoffing has recognized that the society will soon need a second 40-foot container for storage. We will be acquiring some new solid propellant mixing equipment and we need to rearrange our inventory in a more organized and accessible fashion. Whether this comes in the form of a new container on our MTA site or possibly one given to us from our site tenant, Polaris Propulsion Inc., remains to be seen. The society will continue to monitor progress and set goals to complete these tasks.
This will be my last monthly report as I am stepping down as secretary of the RRS. I have enjoyed serving in this role for the last three years, but it is time for me to allow a new secretary to lend his voice to you, our readers. I will remain active with the society, but only as a member engaged in many projects around the society. The society grows as we bring new members in and the society gets new ideas. It is also important that we also get new leadership from time to time. I hope to see more of our new administrative membership step up for these executive council roles in the future. There is no better way to help the society than with service.
As my last parting comment, I would encourage ALL of our membership to write and submit articles. The RRS.ORG website is one of the best ways we educate and inform the public about the things that interest the society in rocketry. Even simple academic subjects are excellent ideas. Next year, you may see a couple articles from me, but I want to encourage all of our membership to do more than just mention ideas in conversations, but write them down, text them, email them, convey them to the RRS secretary. It is the job of the RRS secretary to be the chief editor and means of publication for our membership. Past articles are welcome as we have re-printed ones from our long past. We also heartily welcome new content. Any time is a good time to submit.
Our next meeting will be held January 10, 2020, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center at 7:30PM. If there are questions or corrections, please notify the RRS secretary. After January 1, this will be Drew Cortopassi.
With gracious thanks to the society, I hope to see everyone in the new year.
by Dave Nordling, Secretary, Reaction Research Society
The RRS had our last launch event of the year this Saturday, December 7, 2019, at the Mojave Test Area (MTA). We were hosts again to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Community Safety Partnership (CSP) and this time with 99th Street Elementary.
The RRS has been reworking some of our rails including our trusted and reliable alpha rail launcher. Months of use had slowly built up uneven layering of zinc-sulfide on the rail surfaces making loading difficult but protecting the steel surfaces from the slow corrosion of the dry salt lake bed just a few miles away. Osvaldo did great work in giving our alpha rail launcher a new lease on life. Thanks also to Russell Hoffing and his kids for helping out with the installation before the event crew arrived.
The winter seasonal rains have arrived a little early to southern California, but the weather began to clear today just before we started. The winds were very low which was excellent for launching rockets. From the washing action of the rain this week, the loose sand drifted into a vein-like pattern over the harder sand below which gave the ground a slightly “Martian” quality. It was cool but not cold and a great day for a launch.
We had a minor problem from the rainwater gathering in the bunker. It wasn’t more than an inch or two deep, but on a cool December morning, it would be a miserable place for our guests. The RRS was grateful to some of the Friends of Amateur Rocketry who let us borrow a small sump pump to pull the standing water out.
We gave the students the standard safety briefing about how to avoid the dangers at the site. We also gave them a live demonstration of how the micrograin zinc and sulfur powder burns in the open showing the brilliant yellow color. Larry Hoffing had also prepared a small sample of solid composite propellant made with ammonium perchlorate and an iron oxide accelerant.
Larry Hoffing and his grandsons had a few model rockets to try out at the event. After setting up the launch wire and clamping the smaller 6-foot long 1010 rail to a suitable rigid and weighted base. Winds were very light all day so we had few problems from the elements.
Larry flew a classic Estes model, Big Bertha, which is always a crowd-pleaser. This vintage model design is slowly powered at take-off by a C6-3 commercial motor then gains traction after its fins start working. It has flown to couple hundred feed then at apogee made a nice parachute recovery.
The high-powered fiberglass bodied rocket launched on a 1010 C-rail was boosted by a vintage Flight Systems F6-7 motor, but failed to move vertically up the rail by more than a couple of feet before settling nicely on the launch pad with an impressive 6-inch exhaust flame. It will be back to the drawing board for that model with the possible addition of a more powerful G-sized AP motor or a H-sized hybrid. The students at 99th Street Elementary witnessed the launch, but the biggest part of the event was yet to begin.
The ten RRS standard alpha rockets from the students were already loaded the night before. A last minute addition of another alpha painted by their teacher was included. Osvaldo showed me his latest propellant loading approach that minimizes external powder contamination on the person loading. Using zinc-sulfur is simple, but it has it’s own problems. Many of our spouses and friends are not pleased with the persistent odor of brimstone (raw sulfur) on our clothes upon our return to the city. Osvaldo has known this problem for years and found a simple method of blocking the migrating propellant dust using a simple pillowcase shield. He has also improved the mating funnel and with a steady light bouncing of the propellant tube on a wood block, the propellant tube can be filled with its 3.2 pounds of zinc-sulfur mixture.
Our alpha launch operations were conducted a little differently at this event. Osvaldo did the loading at the rails, while I was manning the launch switch in our observation bunker with everyone else safely under cover. By California law, the person on the launch switch is the pyro-op in charge. With our experienced team doing road and air space checks before each firing, we had a good safe launch and a lot of fun.
We had ten alpha rockets plus one extra painted by the teacher for this event. All of them looked really sharp with bright colors easy to spot when recovered from the desert floor. 99th Street Elementary really enjoyed the five weekly classes and were very exciting to have the last class at the Mojave Test Area to see real demonstrations of rocket propellants and the micrograin powder in each of the rockets propelling them into the gray sky one by one.
Most of the alpha flights were perfect. The flight times were consistent and given the low winds we could hear the whooshing return and the thump on nearly every one to confirm impact.
We had one particularly troublesome flight which is a rarity with the RRS standard alpha after all of the years spent perfecting that design. The second rocket sputtered and hesitated a lot before taking off slowly from and rails and flopping back to the ground. No obvious cause was found on that rocket, no unusual burn pattern or melting and the propellant tube seemed intact. After inspecting the rocket more thoroughly upon its recovery just a few feet from the launch rail, it was clear that the nozzle mounting screws must not have been installed. No damage was seen to either the propellant tube or the nozzle. The nozzle throat was in tact which indicates it must not have been present to choke the fiery exhaust flow. This also explains the profound lack of thrust, but yet even without a nozzle the micrograin rocket was able to generate enough pressure to lift itself out of the rails. The nozzles often fit very tightly into the propellant tubes which might have been how someone could have failed to notice the missing attachment screws during transport to the launch pad. This is quite an error which will not be repeated.
We said goodbye to our visitors and prepared to clean up the site. In the winter months, the sun sets quickly so we didn’t have a lot of time to search for the alphas. Frank had a lot of luck finding six of the eleven launched that day. Some of the parts can be reused with a little work.
We’ll surely discuss the results of the launch event at the next RRS monthly meeting which is next Friday, December 13th. Also, we’re already planning the next MTA launch event which will happen in January. We are expecting more launches in this next year, 2020. Thanks for reading!