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!
The Reaction Research Society held another launch event with the LAPD CSP. This event was with the students of Boyle Heights. We had ten standard alphas launched into the blue Mojave sky that day including some model rockets made by Russell Hoffing and my grandson.
We had students from the CSU Long Beach liquid rocket team come out to make some measurements for sub-system testing that they are planning at the RRS MTA this year.
Returning RRS member, John Krell, had worked up two prototype instrumentation packages for flights in the ninth and tenth RRS standard alphas on that day. Both rockets were recovered and the results were impressive.
Materials have been acquired to repair the adjustable rail launcher that was damaged in early August this year. Osvaldo has been busy at work on the repairs. The RRS has several facility improvement projects in the works and we hope to bring this rail launcher back to service soon for larger rockets (4 to 6 inches).
John will hopefully have a full report and an overview of his design. Both Bill Behenna and Brian Johnson are also working on their own instrumentation designs for the RRS standard alpha. With this recent progress, this should help our others members take better data.
We’ll discuss more of the results of this event in detail at the next RRS meeting on October 11, 2019. The RRS meets every 2nd Friday at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, California. Stop in and see how things went.
The RRS met for our monthly meeting on Friday, May 10, 2019, at 7:30pm at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, CA. We were not as well attended this month, but we did have three new people join us at the meeting. With Mother’s Day weekend and graduation ceremonies happening at this time of year, many had other commitments.
I must admit my error this week. I did realize too late that my monthly email to announce the meeting was not sent this week. Typically, I do send an email reminder to our active membership list (or anyone else who wants to know) on the Monday before meeting which also contains a copy of the agenda. Next month, I will not forget as this unintended experiment has shown that our reminder emails can be valuable to our membership.
The RRS has our monthly meetings always at 7:30pm on the 2nd Friday of each month. I usually mark my whole calendar each year with all of the 2nd Fridays to avoid schedule conflicts, but this is only a suggestion. Our meeting location is at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena, unless otherwise announced in advance.
Also, in about the week prior to the meeting around the first of the month, I will gather up the agenda topics expected for the next month and post . All members are welcome to send their suggestions and ideas for agenda topics. We especially want short topics (5 minutes) on things related to rocketry, chemistry, payloads or just any kind of project you’re working on. The society is about sharing knowledge. Send an email to the RRS secretary or any of the executive council and we can put it on the agenda. Some of our members who aren’t in town have submitted things to be presented at meetings in the past which is also something the society can share in our meeting if the materials are clear enough and sent well in advance.
After calling the meeting to order and the reading of the treasury report, we began our agenda for May and covered most of the topics leaving some for June 14, 2019.
(1) Discussion of the 2019 RRS Symposium
The 2019 RRS Space & Rocketry Symposium held on Saturday, April 27th, was a success. We had a few different presenters this year in our lineup, welcomed a few new exhibitors and were very well attended over most of the day. According to Frank, we broke last year’s attendance by a small margin. RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti, was very pleased with the amount of support we got from our membership in the night before and early morning of the symposium. Also, the RRS was very glad to have support we did at the end of the symposium in tearing down and cleaning up at the close of the day. These often overlooked simple details make running the symposium a real pleasure even at the end of a long day.
We had our first opportunity to discuss the positive things at the symposium at the May meeting and this took up most of our meeting time. We were very happy to see so many groups come out including Spaceport LA, ROC and two organizations within the US Air Force (SMC at LA AFB and AFRL from Edwards AFB). The food truck vendor was also a great success. Many people enjoyed the pleasant weather and good food we had on site at lunch time. The outdoor exhibits were also a big hit. We are also thankful to LAPD CSP and the Los Angeles county sheriff’s department. The society will take notes to help with improving and expanding our next symposium still in planning for April 2021.
Some things that could have been better was sound quality. It was generally agreed that better speaker placement and the cloth barriers behind our audience rows was not sufficient to dampen out the noise from several running exhibits and the general foot traffic. It was my suggestion that we return to the 2017 format of having our presentations in the separate meeting room in the back and keep our exhibitors in the ballroom and at the main entrance.
We have also discovered that our exhibition seems to do well starting first thing in the morning and lasting until mid-afternoon. However, our audience attendance for our speakers tended to be better starting in the late morning and lasting all the way to the end of the day. The RRS is considering having fewer presenters but keeping the duration and range of content the same. Our audience seems to enjoy the topics that our speakers have been offering, so we will continue in this direction. The RRS will likely discuss more of our member and attendee impressions of the symposium at the next meeting on June 14, 2019.
(2) Terry Price’s presentation on composite materials used in rocketry – delayed to next month
Terry was unable to attend the May meeting, however, he did say that he could join us next month. Terry gave a great hour and a half presentation of composite materials at the EAA 96 monthly meeting in April. I hope he can bring some of the same excitement that he generated at the Compton Airport to our June 14 meeting in Gardena.
(3) Upcoming events at the RRS Mojave Test Area
The rocket build event with Spaceport LA planned for early May was cancelled. We hope to reschedule a similar event with them very soon. The RRS is always interested in supporting these rocket build events with public and private groups if there is sufficient interest. Larry Hoffing is our events coordinator and the point of contact for setting up these kinds of events.
firstname.lastname@example.org – Larry Hoffing
UCLA will be having their rocket launch event at the end of the Spring Quarter 2019 on Saturday, June 1st. Several model rocket motors will be fired as part of Dr. Mitchell Spearrin’s undergraduate class. We have been glad to support UCLA for three years running in hosting this event. The RRS has also been glad to support their liquid and solid rocket motor teams over recent years.
At this same June 1st launch event, Osvaldo and I talked about securing the alpha thrust stand and having a series of static hot fires to generate more thrust curves for our micrograin alphas. From the one and only thrust curve we made, it appears that the RRS standard alpha qualifies as an “I” sized motor. We had a setback last year when the concrete slab to which the rocket and thrust stand was secured proved to be an insufficient foundation to react the swift impulse loading of an alpha. We have this footage of this defective hot-fire test on our Instagram account. It’s almost comical, but we must do better for the sake of safety and good science. Further, we need more data. The RRS does not intend to commercialize the standard alpha, but for the sake of future projects using this vehicle as a test bed, it would be good to have more recent motor performance measurements.
Some of our membership had indicated interest in building payloads to fly inside of the RRS standard alpha rockets we fly at each of these school events. Nearly all of these payload tubes are empty and are available to members able to build and supply their payloads before the event. Contact the RRS president for more details on alpha rocket payload tube specifications.
Frank has confirmed another rocket build event starting this summer in June through the LAPD CSP program. LAPD has been an ardent supporter and our rocket build programs are a big hit with the kids. The final part of the project is the launch event at the RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA). This will likely take place on Saturday, July 13th. We often have at least six alphas and sometimes as many as a dozen rockets at these events.
(X1) A brief word to potential users of the RRS MTA
Our membership is welcome to bring more tests and flights to the manifest. The only requirements the RRS has is that all participants download and submit a Standard Record Form available from the RRS.ORG forms library. This document provides a basic description of the project that members or other authorized attendees intend to execute at the RRS MTA. Supporting illustrations and documents are encouraged to help explain the task and operations for the supervising pyrotechnic operator. Approval of all activities at the RRS MTA are at the discretion of the supervising pyrotechnic operator and the RRS.
For those outside of our membership wishing to use the RRS MTA, the society requires submission of Standard Record Forms for all proposed activities. These must be submitted to the RRS president at least 14 calendar days in advance of the planned MTA event. Details of these tests can be held confidentially, but the RRS must have the opportunity to review, understand and approve all activities at the RRS MTA well in advance of the event. The RRS would prefer to have at least a month’s notice if not more. The RRS has been glad to assist more and more groups particularly with universities, however, we can not always support events particularly when we get little or no advance notice.
In the professional aerospace industry, it is a common practice to schedule a date with the testing site many months in advance and use this calendar deadline to help motivate the team to achieving meaningful results in time for the pre-set date. Scheduling a test date as an after-thought in executing a project often leads to disappointing results. Also, the society strongly recommends that users consider using times of the year other than at the end of semesters or quarters. If an event is planned well in advance, we will keep it on our calendar and can more easily have the personnel and resources ready.
The RRS must coordinate our activities with several parties and the better informed we are and the more notice we have will result in the RRS being better able to serve our prospective membership and clients. For any questions about RRS policy or practices, please contact the RRS president. The RRS is a volunteer organization and will always make our best effort to support rocket programs and projects.
(4) Pyrotechnic Operators for Rocketry in California
The RRS has been on a campaign to get more of our membership to apply and attain their pyrotechnic operators license. We’ve enjoyed a lot of support from many of our licensed membership in getting the necessary letters of recommendation for the application process. The RRS has also been glad to have the advice and assistance of the California Fire Marshal’s office. Osvaldo Tarditti, Larry Hoffing, Drew Cortopassi, Chris Lujan and myself have been in the application process for the rocketry pyrotechnic operators license. At the May 2019 meeting, Alastair Martin indicated his interest in becoming a pyrotechnic operator also. With more pyrotechnic operators on the state roster, there is more opportunity for more groups to conduct events throughout California. The RRS plans to remain active in our support to the public.
It’s with pleasure that I announce that I have attained my 3rd class rockets pyrotechnic operator’s license from CALFIRE this month. This annually renewable license allows me to buy high powered solid motors and supervise launch events within this class of solid motors. I hope to soon announce more pyrotechnic operators at the RRS very soon. The RRS is also very glad for the support of the licensed pyro-operators in our society and outside of our society at Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR). It is through the mutual support of all rocketry organizations that we expand our voice in the state and maintain a high standard for safety and the bold tradition of experimentation made possible in the Golden State.
It’s my intention to upgrade my license to rockets 2nd class to be able to supervise and manage the unlimited category of solid rocket motors. The RRS is an organization that regularly conducts flights and testing in the unlimited class of solid motors. Our proud tradition of responsible experimentation in solid rocket technologies has one of our perrennial activities for over seven decades from micrograin to composite motors.
For more information on the licensing process for pyrotechnic operators as it pertains to rocketry, please contact CALFIRE directly.
(5) RRS Constitutional Committee
Now that the 2019 RRS symposium is complete, the RRS Constitutional Committee will begin their task of systematically revising and updating the RRS constitution. This task was approved by the society earlier this year and the committee comprised of two regular members (Larry Hoffing and Bill Janczewski) and one executive council member (Frank Miuccio) were appointed to begin this task over the summer.
The RRS Constitution has been updated periodically through amendments and notices over the years. The society has decided that a full review and incorporation of all changes be made in an update to the constitution to be voted and approved by our active voting membership near this year’s end. The main intent of the committee is to examine the constitution and recommend changes to better reflect how the society operates today. RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti, did offer a word of caution that the Constitution should not be too specifically worded to over-regulate our operations. He has recommended that the committee take a minimalist approach and the committee will take this under advisement. Frank already has copies of the last edition of the RRS Constitution and amendments. These materials are available to all society members and some may already be on the RRS website.
This new revision will be known as the 2020 Constitution. It is a big effort and the society looks forward to the committee’s draft to be presented at the September 13, 2019, monthly meeting where suggestions and discussions will first commence.
(6) RRS Social Media Improvements – Recurring Topic
Alastair Martin was able to talk a little bit about RRS social media improvements and advertising of RRS events in general. One of his suggestions was that the society examine the use of EDDM (Every Door, Direct Mailers). These are the large postcard advertisements that organizations use to go into the mailboxes of targetted audiences throughout a region. Alastair has used these in the past with some of his events and had great success. The cost is substantial, but the results could be many more people getting notice to come to future symposiums and other large events with the RRS.
I had offered a suggestion that the RRS consider the use of more forms of electronic payment to help our ability to sell items at events or take membership dues and application fees. Venmo is a smartphone application that can be convenient for some to make direct payments to the RRS. The society seemed open to the idea, but it seemed to require further discussion and a vote to implement the change. There may be other means of electronic payment to consider however we must be cognizant of the fees involved and how practical each means would be for the society. We can bring this subject up again at the next meeting on June 14, 2019.
Currently, the RRS only has a PayPal account which is connected to our “DONATE” button on the RRS.ORG website. We encourage new applicants to use the “DONATE” button to tender their application fee ($40) if they desire associate membership at the RRS. Also, for our current membership, annual dues payments are much easier if made through PayPal or using our “DONATE” button. The only we ask for online donors is that they make a note of what the contribution is for and who we have to thank.
The RRS still accepts payments by direct mail to our post office box shown in our RRS.ORG website. The mailbox is not very frequently examined so it is strongly advised that all persons making payments to the RRS by direct mail contact the RRS president or RRS treasurer by email in advance to let them know to inspect the mailbox soon after the mail arrives. It is not uncommon for our direct mail to sit for a week or more.
Lastly, Alastair made mention of the next Rocket Talk Radio podcast which Richard Garcia and I will be a part of on Saturday, May 25th. The subject of this hour-long program will be Robert Truax. Truax was a key figure in 20th century rocketry and an important pioneer in the decades before the so-called “NewSpace” movement.
(7) RRS Participation with the CALFIRE committee on rocketry
The RRS was invited to attend CALFIRE’s review of the state’s regulations and laws on rocketry. Both the RRS and FAR have been reviewing regulations and preparing suggestions for improvements and clarifications to CALFIRE legislation governing the practice of amateur rocketry in California. The state has been very open to hearing from the amateur rocketry community about ideas and common sense changes that would make regulation better for all participants. Osvaldo has been involved with this activity and will soon schedule a separate meeting for RRS pyro-op’s to share and review our ideas. The CALFIRE committee will meet again in November 2019 and the RRS will offer our views on how the law can best serve the public.
(8) Topics for next meeting
Time ran out in the May meeting. Next month’s agenda will include further discussion about the RRS involvement with the base11 organization and the liquid rocket project (LR101) at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM).
Richard Garcia has indicated his interest in getting the first prototype of the RRS standard liquid rocket motor built and tested.
RRS members have been helping different university groups on their liquid rocket projects and we expect to greatly expand our activities in this area as this year unfolds.
Lastly, the quarterly update for the SuperDosa project will have be made at the July 12, 2019, meeting.
Our next meeting of the RRS will be Friday, June 14, 2019. We will likely have something to share from the MTA launch event with UCLA by then. If there are any corrections or additions to be made to this monthly meeting report, please notify the RRS secretary.