by Keith Yoerg, Reaction Research Society Secretary
The RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA) hosted a launch event and work party on Sunday, September 26th. The USC Rocket Propulsion Lab (USCRPL) had arrived a few days earlier to prepare for a static firing of their 8″ diameter solid rocket motor named “Earthshaker II” which took place on the 26th. Several RRS members also answered the “Yoerg Challenge” to launch model rockets, and Dimitri was out with his water rockets. On the work side of things the Dosa building was re-organized, a security camera was installed, and a discussion began on how best to replace the aging roof on the blockhouse.
USCRPL 8″ SOLID ROCKET STATIC TEST
USCRPL had their setup ready for a static test of their 8″ solid rocket motor in the late afternoon, which was secured below the vertical test stand. Unfortunately, shortly after coming up to full power the motor exploded. All personnel were at a safe distance in the bunker and no one was injured. RRS President and Pyrotechnic Operator in charge Osvaldo approached the site once it was safe and extinguished the resulting flames.
All requests to use the RRS MTA must be made to the RRS president and reviewed by the executive council. For any questions about this test series or any future test series, please contact the RRS president.
YOERG CHALLENGE MODEL ROCKET LAUNCHES
Many RRS members had model rockets on hand to answer the “Yoerg Challenge” and launch at the MTA site. Dimitri and his son Max launched a “Helios” and “Dazzler” on C6-3 motors. Keith launched a “Baby Bertha” on a B6-4 and a “Big Bertha” on a B6-2. Dave Nordling launched a “Baby Bertha” on an A motor. Bill Inman & Jon Wells also launched model rocket kits, and John Krell launched a model kit on a G motor. (I will endeavor to do a better job of recording the rockets & motors that everyone uses at these launches for more specific reports in the future).
We did not have the new wireless Cobra firing system at the MTA site during this event, so we used the 4-pad controller that Dimitri built earlier this year. The controller split its time between this low-power launch pad and the water rockets which Dimitri had set up on the underground blockhouse.
I will also mention that prior to these launches, we enjoyed a nice potluck BBQ of brats, (homegrown) potato salad, chips, beans, and corn. Several members contributed food which was expertly prepared by Becky. We’ve been doing this more often and seem to keep getting better at it every time!
WORK PARTY TASKS
In addition to the more exciting “fiery” aspects of the day, RRS members also completed a lot of routine maintenance at the MTA site. We completed several general organization tasks in the Dosa Building and the storage containers, and a security camera was installed on the Dosa Building. There was also a lengthy and robust conversation about methods to replace the aging blockhouse roof, which has been high on the the society’s list of desired site improvements for several years.
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 latest meeting of the Reaction Research Society took place this past Friday, April 9th and had 15 attendees – including another guest presenter. We kicked off the meeting by watching footage of Bill Inman’s Solar Cat launch from March, and a video of a liquid engine static fire from the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Space Program, who presented to the RRS about their project last month.
GUEST PRESENTATION – WILSON F/X LAUNCH CONTROLLERS
Brad Wilson from Wilson F/X launch controllers was our guest presenter for this month, continuing our recent discussions on wireless launch controllers. Brad started the company roughly 20 years ago with Dan Fox, after building launch controllers for their local high power rocketry club in the midwest. They began with a wired single pad controller, and have since expanded to build 64-pad systems as well as adding wireless firing capabilities. Their wired and wireless modules are in use by many local rocketry clubs including ROC and FAR, as well as others around the country. The largest motor known to have been flown on a Wilson F/X system was a size Q at a rocket launch in Black Rock.
RRS members had a lot of good questions for Brad, who was gracious enough to explain several different features and specifications of his system. Both the wired and wireless Wilson F/X systems use 32-bit encryption to send the firing signal from the control box (where the operator flips the switch) to the pad box (which supplies the current to light the ignition charge). This means the control box is required and the pad box cannot be used by itself to fire the motor. Brad sent along some product specification sheets for RRS members to review. Any member that would like a copy can request one by emailing the RRS secretary at: email@example.com
EVENTS AT THE MTA
After a brief discussion about the March launch event, the group began planning for the MTA event the day after the meeting. Several members with projects that have become staples at our recent events planned to join for the launch – including Bill Inman’s Solar Cat, Wolfram Blume’s Gas Guzzler, and “Yoerg Challenge” low-power model rockets from Dimitri Timohovich and Keith Yoerg. In addition, Larry Hoffing expects to have experimental motors ready for testing.
2 additional fights are expected – a rocket from the USC Rocket Propulsion Lab flying on an experimental 6″ diameter motor and BPS.space, flying on a commercial N sized motor. A write-up on these activities will be available within the next few days.
LAUNCH COORDINATION BETWEEN RRS & FAR
Rick Maschek joined for the meeting and began a discussion about coordination of launching activities between the RRS and our neighbors at FAR. With activity picking up at both organizations, it’s becoming more common for us to have event scheduled at both sites for the same weekend. Because of the proximity of our launch sites, rockets have been known to launch from one and land near the other.
Both groups are committed to safety when performing rocket activities, and improving communication about launches between on-site personnel in each organization has been identified as a priority. One option suggested is to alternate weekends between the organizations so that events do not overlap. Since weather and other schedule considerations can sometimes make that difficult to implement, it was agreed that radio communication should be established on days when both organizations are operating so that everyone will be aware of impending launches.
YOUTH OUTREACH CLASS
Frank Miuccio updated the membership on the status of the youth outreach programs that the RRS hosts, which seem likely to happen but are more complicated due to COVID-19 precautions. A classroom space large enough for adequate physical distancing has been found, but travel to the MTA site will likely not be possible until more restrictions are lifted.
Because the demonstration of rocket flights is one of the more engaging aspects of the class, Frank has begun developing a class plan that would allow for more hands-on activities without pyrotechnics. Soda straw rockets propelled by air and film canisters propelled by a baking soda & vinegar mixture are 2 ideas being pursued to give the students an exciting achievement until an MTA visit can be safely arranged.
NEXT MONTHLY MEETING
The next RRS monthly meeting will be held virtually on Friday, May 14th 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: