MTA launch event, 2021-06-19

by Dave Nordling, Reaction Research Society


The society held a launch event at the Mojave Test Area on June 19th. With many people having other plans, we were sparsely attended but able to get a few things done. The winds were very low and sun was very hot that day (105 F) making it a challenge to operate at the site, but with each other’s help we managed. I was the pyrotechnic operator in charge that day. I had intended to bring my hybrid rocket for this event but wasn’t able to complete the rocket in time. It would be Bill Inman’s Solar Cat, a pair of micrograin alphas and witnessing the UCLA Prometheus team launch their hybrid rocket after getting a replacement nozzle from the motor supplier.

UCLA Prometheus team posing before bringing their hybrid rocket to the launch rail at FAR.

BILL INMAN’S SOLAR CAT

Bill Inman and Jon Wells made the journey from Nevada to demonstrate a new sun tracking system improvement to better automate the solar heating process with the parabolic mirror. Unfortunately, there were several problems with the installation that ultimately went unresolved for that day. A series of benchtop tests would be needed before bringing his combined solar collector and rail launcher back to the MTA for a launch.

Bill had also expressed concerns about vibration from over-the-road travel taking its toll on the structure. He was already considering a major rebuild of his parabolic collector with a wider aperture. The next iteration of the Solar Cat is also supposed to be larger in diameter and capacity. With the Solar Cat work at a halt, Bill and Jon came over to assist Manny Marquez and myself with the loading of a pair of RRS standard alphas.

A PAIR OF ALPHAS

Osvaldo Tarditti was unable to attend this event, but he did measure out the zinc and sulfur in separate pre-weighed bags and provided a clean pair of alpha parts complete with the nozzles and well-painted, turned and recovered aluminum nosecones. For our new members, the society likes to give the experience of micrograin rocketry. Manny, Bill and Jon would have their first experience loading and firing an alpha that day. The society hasn’t launched many micrograin rockets since before the pandemic.

Manny Marquez loads the pre-weighed charges of zinc and sulfur powders before closing up the mixing barrel.
With the generator powering the electric motor driven roller, the drum sits and gently rolls mixing the zinc and sulfur to a consistent mixture.

Manny was a big help getting the equipment out and running. I was able to train him in the old RRS tradition of micrograin rocketry. With only two rockets, we gave the loading duties to Bill and Jon. For their handling of the dirty task of slowly loading the propellant tubes, they each got the honor of finishing the build and preparing for launch.

New member, Jon Wells (left) and returning member, Bill Inman (right) hold the first of two loaded alpha propellant tubes.
Bill Inman doing the hook-up under oppressive heat.

I was able to teach Bill, Jon and Manny the safe procedure for hooking up back to the control box in the blockhouse. With a well rehearsed procedure including air-and-road checks, we notified FAR in advance of firing our two alphas for that day to prevent anyone from wandering downrange before we fired.

Still capture from the launch of Bill Inman’s alpha; fast as hell

We each got a good lesson in the value of teamwork and a renewed respect for the heat of summer. The micrograin rocket is a simple but powerful initiation into experimental rocketry.

We all brought a lot of ice and drinks for that day and it was a big help.

Our next event has not been scheduled but we do plan to return to the MTA in July 2021. For members interested in planning the next event at the MTA, contact the RRS president and the executive council.

president@rrs.org


MTA launch event, 2021-05-01

by Dave Nordling, Reaction Research Society


The Reaction Research Society held an event at the Mojave Test Area (MTA) on May 1, 2021. Dave Crisalli was the pyrotechnic operator in charge. RRS president, Osvaldo Tarditti, was also present along with myself, It was not to be a launch event as all planned tests were static firings by the UCLA liquid rocket team and the UCLA hybrid motor team. The winds were very high that day consistently above 20 MPH and gusts above 50 MPH at times. The weather otherwise was very cooperative with comfortable temperatures.

Other than gusting and persistently hugh winds, it was a great day at the MTA on 5/1/2021

Dave Crisalli gave a safety briefing in the George Dosa building to all attendees before the first static fire campaign would begin. The RRS pyrotechnic operator in charge is responsible for the safety of all during the event. Hazard identification (spiders, snakes, sharp objects) and good practices (hydration, sunscreen) are always part of the briefing, One of the most important things, Dave Crisalli mentioned was not to be in a hurry. It is very important to take the proper time to do things correctly and safely even if it means not proceeding with the intended test that day. Taking your time means avoiding mistakes and improving your chances for success.

Xavier Marshall observes the UCLA hybrid motor controls setup at the RRS MTA on 5/1/2021.

RRS members, Bill Inman and John Wells came to the MTA for the event, but only as spectators. The Solar Cat project is still active and undergoing improvements to its sun tracking method. Bill is also expanding the collector area and adjusting the necessary support structures. It is likely Bill and John will be back for the next RRS MTA event.

Dave Crisalli (left) and Bill Inman (right) at the RRS MTA vertical test stand on 5/1/2021

Also in attendance was the Compton Comet team who have all recently joined the society as members. It was their first time visiting the MTA and getting a chance to see another university team conduct liquid rocket test operations at our vertical test stand.

Members of the Compton Comet team, Manuel Marquez, Aarington Mitchell, Tre Willingham (from left to right) wait at the Observation Bunker at the MTA for the hybrid motor firing with Waldo Stakes (at right).

RRS member, Wolfram Blume came by the RRS MTA to take measurements of the vertical test stand for a future static fire test of his ramjet upper stage engine. He intends to use a leaf-blower compressor motor to simulate foward air flow, but a lot of calculations and planning is required before proceeding. The vertical test stand has a winch and pulley system still attached from Richard Garcia’s liquid motor test in 2017. It should be adequate for Wolfram’s lifting needs when mounting the test equipment to the stand.

The vertical test stand with the winch and pulley system still mounted.

The UCLA team spent the night before on our site setting up their equipment. This advanced planning paid off as they were ready for the first of two hot-fires of the liquid rocket just past noon.

Camera adjustments made before the first hot fire of the UCLA liquid rocket on 5/1/2021

Often, it can take several hours to verify all systems are in good working order before testing especially with a liquid rocket, The hybrid rocket was no exception that day.

The UCLA hybrid motor team installs the fuel grain and nozzle into the 98mm standard motor casing,
The UCLA hybrid motor mounted for static fire on the RRS MTA I-beam

One of the two load cells had failed so the two teams had to share the same load cell between the hybrid motor and liquid motor firings. UCLA chose to let the hybrid team go next after successful results were seen with the first firing, The UCLA hybrid motor team corrected a few issues and were able conduct a successful hot-fire by late afternoon.

The society members in attendance also had time to make some minor repairs to the new mobile trailer asset, A steel plate was added to keep intruders from entering. Thanks to Waldo Stakes for doing the welding for this temporary fix.

The mobile trailer at the RRS MTA needs a lot of repairs

There was sufficient daylight remaining for a second hot-fire of the UCLA liquid rocket, The team had another engine with the previous injector design from last built and ready with a fresh internal ablative liner. They had retanked another load of ethanol and the liquid oxygen cylinder had sufficient stores for another loading cycle.

Preparing for liquid oxygen transfer to the propellant tank

Thanks to the hard-won, acquired experience of the UCLA team and their commitment to training new members and holding to their proven procedures, they were able to conduct the second firing safely for an impressive finish that day.

The UCLA liquid rocket team poses before their liquid rocket after a second successful hot fire on the same day.

Initial data from both UCLA static firings of their liquid motor suggest that the 650 lbf nominal thrust motor outperformed expectations and will be ready for vehicle integration and flight by May 29, 2021. The UCLA team had reason to celebrate at the end of the day. The RRS was glad to be a part of UCLA’s continued campaign to fly liquid rockets that are competitive with any university team in the country.

For other universities interested in working with the RRS, please contact the society president submitting a Standard Record Form downloaded from our website,

president@rrs.org


MTA Launch Event, 2021-04-10

by Keith Yoerg (RRS Secretary)


The RRS held a launch event at our Mojave Test Area (MTA) on April 10, 2021, the day after our monthly meeting. COVID-19 still remains a threat so everyone continued to observe protective protocols – masks & physical distancing. For the first time in months, we had a day with great weather for launching rockets and we made the most of it! We had low-power, high-power, and experimental solid rocket launches, another launch of Bill Inman’s Solar Cat, the maiden voyage of Wolfram Blume’s Gas Guzzler, and a static fire of Larry Hoffing’s solid power motors. Osvaldo Tarditti was our pyrotechnic operator in charge.

Activity around 9:30 am at the MTA – prep work ongoing for CTRL+V (left) and Solar Cat (right)

CTRL+V (USC RPL)

Preparation for the first launch of the day: CTRL+V actually began the day before launch with motor integration and other preparation work taking place at the MTA site. On the morning of the launch, the team from the USCRPL installed the rocket on the launch rail, which was then raised into place south of the MTA’s vertical test stand. Wires running from the rail were staked to poles and hammered into the ground to provide additional stability for the rail. Several launch crew members can be seen prepping the rocket above, and a still image of the launch of the rocket can be seen below.

Launch of USC RPL’s CTRL+V, the smoke took a strange path up the rail faster than the rocket!

The rocket flew on a 6″ experimental rocket motor. A specific procedure was followed prior to launch, under the supervision of the pyro op, which included radio go/no-go call outs from several teams including tracking, avionics, and even a drone that took footage of the launch! All spectators and crew were in the bunker during takeoff at 11:04 am – ignition was prompt and rocket left the rail quickly and cleanly. The initial telemetry reported by the team indicated an altitude of over 11 km. Several members then went off on the daunting task of recovering the rocket from wherever it landed.

LUMINEER (BPS.space)

The next flight of the day came from BPS.space with the rocket Lumineer. This launch was conducted from one of the pads just west of the vertical test stand. The flight took place around 1:20 pm on a commercial Cessaroni “N” motor and was livestreamed to a reported 9,000 viewers on YouTube. The rocket utilized a “fly-away” rail guide to provide stability and eliminate the drag of rail buttons, which can be seen still in the process of falling from the rocket in the image below. The target altitude was 10 km, but telemetry was lost shortly after takeoff so the actual peak altitude was unclear after launch, and the rocket was not recovered for some time.

Launch of Lumineer from BPS.space

GAS GUZZLER (Wolfram Blume)

Wolfram Blume has been diligently making the pilgrimage to the MTA events over the last several months and the weather has been uncooperative for his chances of launching, but that finally changed in April! The maiden voyage of the Gas Guzzler took place from the pad just west of the vertical test stand. This flight was conducted to answer several questions about staging during the flight – so the ram jet second stage was flown empty and only the first stage, commercial solid rocket motor was used to power the rocket. A slow-motion (10% full speed) video of the launch can be seen here.

Launch of Wolfram Blume’s Gas Guzzler, it’s so calm the flag on the vertical test stand isn’t waving!

The ascent of the rocket was smooth, validating the rigidity of the rocket’s design and the stability when empty. The data from onboard altimeters confirmed that the ram air entering the 2nd stage was enough to separate the 2 stages immediately (0.1 second) after motor burnout which occurred at 1,440 ft. The parachute for the booster stage deployed successfully and that stage was recovered without damage. The ram jet, upper stage utilizes a dual-deployment of a drogue parachute at apogee and main parachute at 1,000 ft above the ground. While each of these deployments were successful, the main parachute did not pull out of the deployment bag so the stage landed hard and damaged a few parts. Fortunately, the 2nd stage is not the final parts intended for the full flight of both stages so there will not be delays to the project to rebuild. Wolfram collected lots of useful data and plans to add a GPS tracker and other upgrades before his next flight. We all hope the weather remains in his (and all of our) favor!

CHARLIE HORSE (Keith Yoerg)

Up next was the 12th flight of Keith Yoerg’s rocket Charlie Horse. This was the first flight test of the LoRa GPS tracking boards discussed in previous reports. There are several difficulties with getting the units setup properly, not least of which being the frequent firmware updates required to pair the board with the mobile phone app (2 updates in as many months). Powering up the boards the night before would have helped eliminate these struggles, but a successful launch was still completed, a slow-motion (10% full-speed) video of the launch can be seen here, which was on a commercial Cessaroni I280-Smokey Sam motor.

Keith Yoerg’s Charlie Horse seen through the smoke of launch – the camera was tipping over!

One issue still to be resolved with the LoRa trackers is a setting within the Meshtastic mobile application which trades off tracking range for the speed at which new information packets are sent. The “medium” setting was used on this flight but for rocket flights it may be advantageous to reduce the range (which is purported to be up to 10 miles) in favor of more frequent location updates. More testing will be done on future flights in hopes of developing a cheap, simple GPS tracking available for rockets flying at the RRS.

SOLAR CAT (Bill Inman)

Bill Inman’s solar-heated steam-powered Solar Cat rocket took to the skies around 4:31 pm. While the weather was perfect for most of the projects, the light overcast that can be seen in the pictures above proved problematic for the solar heating required for the best flight. In addition by launch time, the solar collector was at its westernmost limit so no more heating was possible. At launch the water temp was 370 F and was at 130 psi.

Bill Inman’s Solar Cat takes to the skies for it’s 2nd launch at the MTA

The flight reached 41 mph speed and achieved a 60 ft altitude. While this was an improvement on the first Solar Cat launch at the MTA, with additional heating there could be even more impressive stats. While he can’t control the clouds, Bill hopes to arrive at the MTA site the night before a launch in the future to increase the chances  of getting off a good test and launch before reaching our western limit of travel for the solar collector.

THE YOERG CHALLENGE (Dimitri Timohovich & Keith Yoerg)

With this being Dimitri’s last MTA event before leaving to Alaska for the summer, some other RRS members need to step up to the plate to keep the “Yoerg Challenge” alive. I have put out the call for more RRS members to build low-power rockets to fly at the MTA, and have left my 5-pad PVC launcher at the site for future launches. IT’S CHEAP, IT’S FUN, IT’S A CHALLENGE (and everyone is a winner)! What’s not to love? So get out there and build some model rockets!

The remains of the “Space Crater” – not covered in raw egg!

The entrants this month included Keith’s Big Bertha, Baby Bertha, and Hi-Flyer XL rockets and Dimitri’s Space Crater – which carried eggs in honor of Easter this month. Fortunately, Dimitri’s wife had the foresight to hard-boil the eggs because his rocket took the “Crater” part of its name a bit too seriously (the remains are shown above). A few of Keith’s flights before the GoPro battery died can be seen here.

SOLID MOTOR TEST FIRE (Larry Hoffing)

Larry Hoffing had some experimental solid rocket motors ready to test fire, but with all the other activity going on at the site he took the time to install a new “No Smoking” sign on the covered propellant loading area (shown below). Once things were a little less active, Larry was able to affix the motors and perform a test-fire. While the burns were long, they did not produce much thrust and need to be improved upon before use in a rocket.

No smoking sign added to the covered propellant loading area by Larry

CONCLUSION

In addition to everything detailed above, one of the USC RPL members flew a high power rocket to earn her Level 1 certification with the National Association of Rocketry, and Dimitri flew his water rockets with his son.

This was by far the most active event at the MTA in the past year and was an exciting day for anyone who likes to see rockets fly! Our next launch date has not been decided upon, but we hope to have an event in May to continue hosting at least one event per month at the site.