MTA Launch Event, 2021-10-16, First Update

by Bill Claybaugh, RRS.ORG


In a remarkable demonstration of persistence and luck, RRS President Osvaldo Tarditti was able to find the spent booster rocket. A few photos were captured of the recovered rocket.

Bill Claybaugh’s recovered spent booster casing brought back to the Mojave Test Area (MTA)
Closeup on the bulkhead shoved into the aluminum case of the booster from the impact.
The fins look great and the nozzle was recovered.

Based on the impact location, it was possible to reconstruct a possible flight trajectory by assuming the motor performed as designed and further assuming the front of the vehicle was a flat plate and that the mass did not include the mass of the payload.  We know from video, telemetry, and recovery of the payload that the payload separated from the booster about one second into the flight.

The recovery location on the map shows a northeast trajectory as confirmed by launch footage.

This analysis suggests a burnout velocity of about 1550 feet/second with a peak altitude of about 21,200 feet given the known range of about 14,300 feet. This analysis gives a flight time of about 74.5 seconds and an impact velocity of about 820 feet/second.

Given the observation that the vehicle stopped in about 2 inches (based on the depth of the depression in the hardpan) before falling on its side; we can estimate the impact deceleration.  Given an average velocity during impact of about 410 feet/second because the final velocity is zero and it took only 0.167 feet to come to rest, it follows that the impact occurred over 0.000407 seconds.  This, in turn, indicates an average deceleration of about 31,250 g’s.

The reason for the vehicle turning to the Northeast starting at about 0.20 seconds into the flight remains unclear. There is no evidence either in video or in images of the recovered hardware of any hot gas leak nor of any transient thrust vector anomaly.  The wind was less than 5 miles per hour and from the Northwest; if it had caused a turn, we would expect it to be toward the Northwest, not the Northeast as observed.  The only plausible theory at this time is that part of the belly-band became embedded between the nose of a fin and the rocket body causing the turn via differential drag and then fell away from the vehicle, causing the resumption of normal flight.  Once the recovered hardware is available for inspection, we will test each fin nose to see if a gap exists that might have caught the 0.020-inch thick belly-band.

The recovered payload segment was examined after it was found just north of the launch site.

It also remains unclear as to why the payload separated about 1 second after launch.  The recovered payload showed that both initiators had fired (by design, if one fires the other is ignited; thus, only one signal is required to fire both) but did not show any evidence of having been “swaged” or otherwise subject to being forced off the rocket by aerodynamic or other forces. Neither does the matching front end of the rocket show any evidence for the payload having been forced off. We thus conclude that one of the flight computers ordered the firing of the initiators.

The bellybands being fit checked in the launch rail.
Recovered bellybands have evidence of tearing from what is likely fin impact.

However, the main flight computer stopped working just after 0.80 seconds into the flight for an unknown reason after recovery it was still connected to its battery, which showed the expected 3.87 volts. Further, the limited data recovered from that computer shows that it did not initiate separation of the payload: the firing circuit shows continuity throughout the period that the computer was operating and separately records that no signal was sent by that computer.

Still image of the rocket just after launch making the unexpected hard turn.

This points to the backup flight computer.  That hardware is currently at the manufacture for repair, after which we hope to extract continuity data with regard to its firing status.  Hopefully, once that and other data is available from the backup computer we will be able to establish when it ordered the separation of the payload, and why.

Recovered payload with the main and backup computer.

A second update to this firing report is expected. The booster has been packaged up for a more detailed inspection.


August 2021 Virtual Meeting


by Keith Yoerg (RRS Secretary)


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.

Screenshot of discussion during the monthly 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 vicepresident@rrs.org for more details if interested.

Baby Bertha kit built by RRS Secretary Keith Yoerg

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.

Some info on the MASA liquid engine that is undergoing testing at the MTA

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.

Osvaldo showing his procedure for soldering a lead onto the nuts

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.

The switch & bulkhead installed in an Alpha rocket nosecone – note the leads attached to both nuts.

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 secretary@rrs.org.

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:

secretary@rrs.org

Please check your spam folders and add secretary@rrs.org to your email whitelist to make sure you receive the invitation.

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MTA launch event, 2021-07-17

by Dave Nordling, Reaction Research Society


The UCLA Project Prometheus had reserved the RRS MTA for Saturday, July 17, 2021, for another round of static fire testing of a nitrous oxide hybrid motor on our vertical test stand.  Dave Crisalli was the pyrotechnic operator in charge for that day and recorded the successful static fire.  The footage will be posted on the society Instagram page soon.

This summer semester test would demonstrate UCLA’s student designed and built custom hybrid motor.  Average thrust was around 300 lbf with a maximum value of 349 lbf.  Total impulse recorded was 2044 lbf-sec (in the M-motor range).  UCLA shared a few pictures from the event.

Success on the stand…
…starts with good testing in the lab

This was another great example of a university team success thanks to careful design, lab testing, training, planning and smart, in-the-field engineering.  The RRS is glad to offer our facility and technical advice.  The RRS looks forward to working with UCLA again soon.

For teams seeking to schedule the use the RRS MTA, please contact the RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti.  Always include a full project description such that the society can accurately evaluate your request.

president@rrs.org