MTA Launch Event, 2024-06-29

by Dave Nordling and Chase Lang, Reaction Research Society

The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held a small launch event at private testing site, the Mojave Test Area (MTA) on Saturday, June 29, 2024. Dave Nordling served as the pyrotechnic operator in charge for this event. RRS director of research, Rushd Julfiker, was also present to oversee the event. The weather was hot, reaching 100F, and the winds were holding still up until about 1pm. New associate member, Mia Marshall, came out to the MTA for the first time and we were glad to show her around the MTA and discuss the kinds of projects our members do.

On Saturday, June 29th, Chase and Jeff Lang conducted a series of tests to evaluate two experimental solid rocket propellants: Performance Fast 2 (PF2) and the Basic Batch. Each of the three “I”-sized 38mm motors fired correctly to the expected burn duration. The primary objective was to characterize the burn rate of PF2 using three test motors, each fitted with progressively smaller nozzles. Additionally, we aimed to test fly a rocket powered by Basic Batch propellant, which had been previously characterized.

For the PF2 testing, we prepared three motors, each with a different nozzle size to observe the effects on the burn rate. The tests were conducted on a custom test stand equipped with a load cell and pressure transducer for precise measurement of thrust and chamber pressure. The data from only the last two of the three firings were recorded and plotted below.

Following the PF2 tests, we launched a rocket powered by a reloaded 38mm Aerotech DMS motor loaded with Basic Batch propellant. This propellant had previously been characterized during a prior visit to the RRS, where we ended up with unburned grains due to a low Kn value. These grains were repurposed for the current test. The rocket achieved an altitude of over 6,000 feet and was successfully recovered with the aid of a custom-built Radio Direction Finding (RDF) beacon. The rocket was recovered downrange to the east thanks to higher winds that picked only just before launch after 1PM that day.

Also joining us that day was associate member, Bill Nelson. Stepping into our crew cabin, B/15, has been challenging given the large difference in height between the door and ground outside. Bill built the society a good step which makes getting in and out much easier.

The crew cabin was used for the temporary storage of hardware and tools as well as an inside work area during the cooler earlier months for the 1936 GALCIT liquid rocket engine replica built for American Artist and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Given the success of the firing and filming event on June 8-9th, the project team brought all hardware and tools back to our shared workspace at the Compton/Woodley Airport where the pieces can be prepared for this fall’s exhibition at LACMA. The project team was grateful to Rushd and Mia for assisting with the moving of parts into trucks.

The next RRS monthly meeting will be July 12th at the front office of the Compton/Woodley Airport at 7:30pm. Meetings are always the 2nd Friday of each month and a good opportunity to discuss projects you’d like to do at the RRS MTA. Anyone interested in attending a meeting is welcome. Please contact the RRS secretary or any member of the executive council. Teleconference information can be provided for those attending remotely.

Chase Lang has asked the society to fund the building of a second 1515 launch rail at the RRS MTA. The executive council is assessing his proposal. The RRS is expanding our launch capabilities now that significant improvements to our basic infrastructure are completed. The council will likely discuss this at the next meeting.

Also RRS associate member, Zach Lesan, has made significant progress in building the mobile trailer for the society’s LNG horizontal cryogenic liquid cylinder. We hope to complete construction and testing successfully and have this asset ready for safe use this fall.

Next event at the RRS MTA will be with Aerospace Corporation as our client. Osvaldo Tarditti will be the pyrotechnic operator in charge. Also, several of our newer members have indicated interest in flying micrograin alphas at a forthcoming event. Jim Gross may oversee that event as the pyro-op in charge when the president schedules it. By society policy, all members and outside parties interested in using the RRS MTA or just visiting the site must first contact and be approved by the RRS president.

MTA Firing Event, 2024-03-02

by Joel Cool-Panama, Secretary, RRS.ORG

The UCLA Prometheus team arrived to the MTA late Friday night under cold winds and light rain. Taking shelter from the elements, many set up their tents inside the Dosa Bldg.

The UCLA team brought their latest custom hybrid motor for a horizontal static fire. Dave Nordling served as pyrotechnic operator with Rushd Julfiker and Dimtiri Timohovich apprenticing. After passing low pressure leak check, they corrected issues in high pressure leak check.  Some minor control issues set back first hot fire to just past sunset. First igniter was a dud. Pyro-op in charge permitted a second attempt with a new igniter. Improper sequencing pushed out the second igniter before the booster charge could light the motor grain under the rush of the oxidizer stream which resulted in the dumping of the nitrous oxide flow over the grain with no ignition.   After some consideration to adjust the timing and reset a new electric match, given the late hour and a concern about hard starting the motor with a recently oxidizer soaked grain, the pyro-op in charge opted to call off the event.  Our unpaid volunteer pyro-ops sometimes will stay late, but sunset is generally considered the cutoff point. UCLA put a great deal of effort and ingenuity but with no success by the end of the event as sometimes happens despite best efforts. UCLA was very courteous throughout the whole event and the RRS looks forward to the Prometheus team’s return to the MTA.

Dimitri and his colleague, George Warner, began the trenching and electrical work this weekend needed to connect our new diesel generator at the MTA which will soon serve our larger electrical and lighting needs around our facility.  The work continued through Sunday, 3/3/2024. The crew cabin (Bldg 15) and the office (Bldg 14) were the first fully-owned RRS owned to be connected to electrical power as they have air conditioning. This will be a welcome resource in the late summer months.

Rushd Julfiker is working on his 38mm Contrails hybrid kit motor for an initial static fire.  Rushd refilled the society’s nitrous bottle. Dave Nordling and Dimitri Timohovich brought and shared their resources and experience. A hybrid motor firing hasn’t been done in a few years and its good to bring this work back as society. Unfortunately given the late hour and missing the nylon tubing needed, Rushd will return at a later date.

Osvaldo Tarditti worked on the shower systems in the restroom facility. We hope to have this convenience working in the coming months. The toilets, urinals and sinks continue to run well even during high usage periods.  The convenience of this facility at our remote location has been a much lauded benefit.

Dave Nordling added metal folding handles to the backsides of the wooden privacy panels in the windows of Bldg’s 14 and 15 for easier removal and replacement.  These heavy panels help insulate the interior from the beating sun. Also, the RRS ate its first meal inside Bldg 15.  The large interior space also can offer our visitors shelter from the elements once we add the beds and more chairs inside.

Dimitri brought the methanol run tanks and empty gas bottles used only for public exhibitions to the MTA. Dave Nordling brought the steel support frames to the MTA along with several components for the fluid feed systems for the 1936 GALCIT engine replica. The first engine parts will be brought to the MTA this coming Thursday when American Artist visits the site for the first time. We look forward to his visit and beginning the first steps in the project.

RRS members involved with the LACMA / American Artist project including RRS President, Frank Miuccio,will be at the MTA on Thursday, March 7, 2024. This will be the first time that American will see the site. Establishing the filming location for the static fire of the 1936 GALCIT replica rocket engine will be the first priority. American’s cinematographer (Chester) and a documentary film crew from PBS will also be present that day.

Next monthly meeting of the RRS will be March 8, 2024, at the Compton/Woodley Airport.

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.