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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 GasGuzzler 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The RRS held a launch event at our Mojave Test Area (MTA) on March 20, 2021, the spring equinox. COVID-19 still remains a threat so everyone had to observe protective protocols. We had a lot of wind that day making launch impractical, but we still were able to get many things done that day including another static fire of a hybrid motor, some system checkouts of the Gas Guzzler and a possible flight of the Solar Cat steam rocket. Osvaldo Tarditti was our pyrotechnic operator in charge. Also joining us that day was fellow Rockets 2nd Class pyrotechnic operator and RRS member, Jim Gross,
MOBILE TRAILER CLEANUP
Mike Gottlieb was a lifetime member of the RRS who passed away over 2 years ago. Years prior, he had acquired a surplus mobile trailer from the former Rockwell International company which was left to reside at the RRS MTA. By permission from his surviving family, this single-axle, climate controlled trailer has been donated to the society. The trailer was opened by the RRS president and the interior inspected by our members present at our March 2021 launch event.
For now, the space will be used for light storage until more space can be acquired elsewhere. We used the time to reorganize the contents of our storage trailer. We hope to renovate this new mobile trailer soon and restore its climate control systems which will be convenient in the summer months.
PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEM AT THE MTA
During the cleaning and reorganization of our storage space, we pulled out the public address equipment we had. The 12 VDC battery powered system including loud speaker and microphones worked well in a test from the old blockhouse. The society has talked about having a more distributed system around the main areas of the site. This will require some further equipment purchases, but for now we have a core system to start from. The goal is to make coordination of our events easier to do when we have large groups of people at the MTA again. Further still, we’d like to coordinate launch timing better with our neighboring amateur rocketry group (FAR) to our south.
NEW RESTROOM FACILITY
As discussed at the March 2021 monthly meeting, the society is going forward with building a new restroom facility with flushing toilets. This will be a big convenience to our visitors and members alike. The executive council has received bids and plans for the restroom and is working with suppliers to find the best solution given our budget. We are grateful to our generous benefactor and the many people who supported this project with their time and skills. More progress should be made soon as we would like to deploy this facility before the hot summer months arrive this year.
FIRST FLIGHT OF THE SOLAR CATFROM THE MTA
Bill Inman and new member Jonathan Wells returned to the MTA for another attempt to launch the solar powered steam rocket, the Solar Cat. He has been making many adjustments and had his first launch near his home in Carson City. Today would be his first launch of his Solar Cat from the MTA.
Bill was able to work out minor problems on his trailer mounted systems last month and was fully ready to use his solar heating and tracking system for the hours necessary to reach launching temperatures of the stored water load in his steam rocket.
Bill has had some minor problems with the release system which led to a unintended release of the rocket. No one was injured but it did cost him several useful hours for insolation (heating). His second attempt was only a partial heat load but sufficient to conduct the first (technically second) flight at the MTA. Keith Yoerg managed to capture the short flight in the late afternoon. It’s a bit comical to watch given how short the flight was, but it is a significant milestone in getting this non-traditional form of liquid propulsion to work. We look forward to the advancements, Bill will make for future flights from the MTA.
REBUILD AND SYSTEMS CHECK OF THE GAS GUZZLER
Wolfram Blume had made several improvements since his last flight attempt of his two-stage ramjet-solid motor rocket. He was able to correct software issues but also made physical feature changes to his booster. Wind speeds were excessive for much of the day, so he used his time at the MTA for fit checks while on the 1515 rail launcher.
Wolfram was able to conduct his tests making use of the 1515 rail launcher. He left in the afternoon after completing his tests and will return for our next launch event planned for April 10. 2021.
WIRELESS FIRE CONTROL AT THE MTA
Wireless fire control is a remote means of conducting launch without stringing long wire connections. This has been a controversial subject at the RRS with some of our members actively supporting using these systems and others being skeptical about their safety.
Richard Dierking mentioned the Wilson F/X wireless firing system which has been used at the Rocketry Organization of California (ROC) and at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) site. Fellow RRS member, Dmitri Timohovich, has used Cobra Firing Systems for pyrotechnic events in the movie business with success. He brought one of these systems to demonstrate at the MTA with test bulbs. The 64-bit encryption in this system vastly reduces the possibility of stray signals causing an unintended firing.
A decision was made at the March 2021 meeting to proceed with care by testing one of these wireless fire control systems with only low-power simple model rockets. We also thought meeting with a sales representative or technical advisor from a wireless fire control system manufacturer to explain the safety of these systems to the society would be an excellent idea. Some of our members have had a negative experience with these systems with unintentionally firing. Older wireless fire control systems have had safety issues. Safety in operations with pyrotechnics of any kind is of paramount importance.
The RRS plans to educate themselves further about wireless firing system technology before making any further policy decisions. It is agreed that every pyro-op in charge at the event has the final say about what systems are and are not allowed at the event. The best course of action for any project leader is to discuss all aspects of their test or launch with the pyro-op in charge well in advance of the event at the MTA.
STATIC FIRING OF THE HYBRID MOTOR
The last two firings of the Contrails H222 38mm 16-inch hybrid motor left some questions about how reliable the ignition of the motor is. From both prior flights, it was evident that quick severance of the nylon plastic fill line at the launch command was not happening. Altitude was very low from such a powerful motor according to the curve. Since the last flight damaged the rocket body beyond repair, the next firing was intended to watch the startup sequence in careful detail under static conditions.
The motor survived in tact from the last short flight, The nozzle, spent grain and floating injector were shoved forward from the impact, but all parts were able to be removed, cleaned and reassembled for another firing with the last of my three fuel grains from the kit.
The static test firing was done on the vertical test stand using a simple wooden fixture and 1/2-inch fasteners. The fixture was built quickly and unfortunately not perfectly. We had to fire the motor upside-down which is not representative of how the engine flies.
The igniter used in the 3-20-2021 test used an electric match as was done in the second test. The kit comes with an electric resistor. In the first test, this was insufficient to get ignition and sever the fill line. Second firing used an electric match and a fragment of composite propellant. This achieved ignition but the fill line wasn’t fully severed. The third attempt used a similar load with a bit more composite propellant. The idea was to produce an ignition flame hot and fast enough to soften and sever the pressurized nylon fill line, With the escaping oxidizer liquid, the combustion should be enhanced and help sever the line. In practice, this doesn’t seem to occur quickly enough,
In the hybrid firing that day, the igniter fired and some chuffing from the nozzle was seen but the combustion was not sustained and the oxidizer supply emptied. The motor will be disassembled and inspected to see if all the composite propellant was consumed or if the nitrous oxide dispersed the pack before the full burn could finish.
MORE WATER ROCKETS
Dmitri upgraded his water rocket launch system to fire multiple rockets. He had a remote firing box which made it very easy to set up. The winds were too strong for any high altitude flights, but the modest water rockets were plenty of fun.
The Yoerg Challenge started as a simple request to those attending our meeting on March 12, 2021 before the launch event: build as many model rockets from as many people as possible and launch them from the multi-wire launcher array that Keith built last month. Dmitri and I both answered the challenge for the event, Although many of our members have built many model rockets since they were kids, some of have not. For those experienced and inexperienced, the Yoerg Challenge was issued. More rockets at each successive event inspires others to build more rockets and more ambitious rocket builds. The RRS is for all forms of reaction propulsion even with a simple model kit.
At the end of the day, Keith and Dmitri launched their model rockets using small “A” sized motors to keep their altitudes low and avoid being carried far downrange with the high winds. I decided not to fly my first model as I left early that day. We hope others will build and bring theirs at our next event.
Next launch event will be April 10, 2021, with USC and member projects.