by Dave Nordling, President, Reaction Research Society
The University of Southern California (USC) Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL) held a static fire test of their third solid motor design in the Earthshaker series. Prior designs resulted in failures and incremental corrections to the design were made for this test. Earthshakiiest was to be the largest impulse motor made by any collegiate team. Osvaldo Tarditti was the pyrotechnic operator in charge.
Given the repeated recent failures of USC motor designs, the society required protective barriers installed in the event of another energetic failure. Unfortunately, this would prove to be a wise choice as failure did result right at startup. All personnel were at a safe distance or behind appropriate barriers.
The extreme heat from the explosion and fire destroyed the static fire stand, melted portions of the shielding and severely damaged the mounting points such that further use is not possible. USC is working with the RRS to clear and clean up the pad. Many of these tests are very dangerous and can damage our facilities. The society expects all groups to repair, restore or replace any of our assets damaged. A new method of holding future large solid motors is being discussed.
The society thanks our former president, Osvaldo Tarditti, for supporting this event as the pyrotechnic operator in charge and to Bill Inman for also supporting the event on behalf of the society. The operation was conducted safely and much was learned despite the poor outcome. USC will provide details from the testing soon and a path forward,