MTA Firing Event, 2024-04-27

by Dave Nordling, Reaction Research Society


The UCLA hybrid rocket team had a static fire event at the RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA) on Saturday, April 27, 2024, under dry and fair weather. Osvaldo Tarditti was the pyrotechnic operator in charge. I was able to assist him a few times in monitoring the progress. The UCLA team has advanced their custom grain and motor design and has improved their nitrous oxide feed system over the last few years. After having some operational challenges and resolving some leak testing issues, UCLA was able to conduct two static firings from the RRS MTA vertical test stand.

Bill Nelson and I met at the MTA to examine and assemble the propellant feed tanks and the associated valve manifolds that will be used in the static firing of the 1936 GALCIT engine replica the society built from a few archival sketches from Frank Malina and Jack Parsons.

RRS member Bill Nelson was able to repair the internal check valve inside our hydrotest pump and conduct a hydrostatic proof pressure test on both welded stainless pipe tanks we will use in firing the replica of the 1936 GALCIT liquid rocket engine prototype as part of the LACMA funded project for American Artist. Both tanks held 1.5 times the design pressure for 5 minutes without leak or bulging as expected.

Bill Nelson and I filled three of the larger gunny sacks with the sand that normally collects in certain areas around the MTA. More will be necessary to build a wall similar in size and appearance to those seen in archival photos in the Arroyo Seco in October 1936. The substantial weight of each required a motorized means of transport, but we were able to lay them next to the replica engine and vertical spring stand for a sense of scale.

Some of the other feed systems require further adjustment and design changes, but all is progressing nicely to an expected first firing with regulated nirogen gas pressurized liquid methanol and regulated gaseous oxygen propellants in the month of May 2024.

For use of the RRS MTA, contact the RRS president.

Next RRS monthly meeting will be Friday, May 10th, at the front office of the Compton/Woodley Airport at 7:30pm.


MTA Firing Event, 2024-04-14

by Dave Nordling, Reaction Research Society


The RRS had a short firing event at the Mojave Test Area on April 14, 2024. I was the pyrotechnic operator in charge that day. Although less rain fell than at prior events, the cold spring weather at Koehn (not so) Dry Lake remained but with low winds.

Rushd Julfiker, our director of research, had built his commercial hybrid motor and mounted it for a static firing. The Contrails 38mm, 16-inch motor is the same model I’ve used in the past with some success. Dimitri Timohovich also apprenticed under me and oversaw operations including remote fill and drain operations. Although a hybrid motor has a solid fuel grain, the compressed liquid oxidizer constitutes a liquid rocket classification by CALFIRE standards.

Dimitri Timohovich had built a portable switch box which I have used in prior operations. It simplifies connections and has the features necessary to assure safe and compliant operations. Rushd managed a good fill operation and a clean ignition. Severing the nylon feedline often requires a boosted charge on top of the electric match. A small portion of aluminum/HTPB/AP composite grain is sufficient to cleanly sever the line while assuring sufficient ignition energy to start the fuel grain burning in the flow of the exiting nitrous oxide.

The basic objective of loading and static firing a hybrid motor at the RRS MTA was met. Rushd and Dimitri are both seeking their Class 1 pyro-op licenses and this experience adds to their growing base. After safing the nitrous system, the motor and mounting was removed and stored for a reloading later. Rushd intends to fire again at a later date, but with a load cell in the system to record thrust.

Dimitri and I observed the restroom facility (Bldg 12) at the MTA now has a functional shower inside and a working hot water system. We thank Osvaldo Tarditti for making several trips to the MTA to complete this amenity for our members and guests.

Dimitri and I discussed and examined the propellant feed system for the upcoming LACMA project with American Artist. Most fittings were present, but some changes to the schematic were necessary to simplify our first firing operations expected next month in May 2024.

For those interested in using the RRS MTA, contact the RRS president.


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.