MTA launch event, 2021-05-29

by Dave Nordling, Reaction Research Society


The Reaction Research Society held a launch event at the Mojave Test Area mainly to support the UCLA Prometheus team for a static fire test of their high powered hybrid motor. UCLA chose one of the largest nitrous oxide hybrid motor designs, the M1575, made by Contrails Rocketry. Dave Crisalli was the pyrotechnic operator in charge for this event. I was his apprentice for the hybrid static fire.

There were three main activities at this event. The first was the UCLA Rocket Project making their preparations to launch their ethanol and LOX vehicle from the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) site from the 60-foot rail. FAR is just to the south of the RRS MTA where the UCLA Rocket Project had twice in one day static fired their 750 lbf liquid propellant rocket engine just four weeks earlier on 05-01-2021.

Weather conditions were ideal with winds being nearly still for most of the morning. This makes little difference for the hybrid motor static fire testing at the RRS MTA which was the second project by UCLA. Wind would factor heavily in the flight of the UCLA’s liquid rocket.

The third planned activity for UCLA was a series of model rocket flights from several high school teams mentored by UCLA graduate and undergraduate students. Still winds made for easier recovery of the first rockets launched that day.

UCLA Prometheus team prepares for static fire at the RRS MTA on 5-29-2021
Dave Crisalli gives the MTA safety briefing for the event in the loading area where the model rockets were assembled for flight.
UCLA graduate students conducted the model rocket launches from just west of the large test stand at the MTA

UCLA at the end of each Spring Quarter conducts a launch event where student groups build small rockets with egg payloads using single and dual-stage vehicles with model rocket class motors (G and under). UCLA graduate students and Professor Mitchell Spearrin were leading this event.

It is good experience for beginners and experts alike to build and fly model rockets., The RRS has it’s own such internal program called the Yoerg Challenge which is to motivate all members to build and fly a model rocket kit at least once from the RRS MTA. The RRS is known as an experimental society and not limited to the model rocket code, but we are also fully supportive of all forms of propulsion as long as it is safely conducted and compliant to the regulations set by the state of California.

As the UCLA hybrid rocket team was making their system checks, they discovered a problem in their nitrous filling system and valve commands. During this diagnostic period, some of the RRS members went to the nearby FAR site to see how the UCLA liquid rocket preparations were progressing.

UCLA’s liquid rocket set on the 60-foot rail launcher at FAR. The team preparing the vehicle for erecting, loading then flight.
RRS members from left to right, Bill Inman, Waldo Stakes, John Wells and Manuel Marquez, inspect the UCLA liquid rocket on the 60-foot launcher deployed at the FAR site.
A few last minute fixes and the rocket was made ready.
The liquid rocket sits on the rail before raising it for launch.
UCLA’s rocket is in position getting ready to clear the area for propellant loading and pressurization operations.

Some of the RRS members remained at the FAR site to witness the launch. After two years of design, planning, build and world pandemic, the UCLA team liquid rocket launch was an amazing success. Due to the relatively low winds that day under clear skies, recovery was made just under a mile away. Preliminary data from telemetry confirmed a new university team altitude record of 22,000 feet. It was an amazing sight to witness from the observation bunker at the RRS MTA.

UCLA’s liquid rocket had a perfect launch on 5-29-2021 setting a new altitude record of 22,000 feet by a university team. Photo by Xavier Marshall, RRS.

The UCLA Prometheus team had corrected their initial electrical problem and began the series of procedural checks to familiarize the new members of the hybrid rocket team. Some minor adjustments of the motor mount alignment was necessary before getting into test.

The UCLA Prometheus team makes some adjustments to better align the hybrid motor in the vertical skid mounted to classic I-beam at the RRS MTA.
The nitrous oxide K-bottle sits inverted in the sloped stand to allow the liquid to flow from the port. Some nitrous oxide bottles come with an internal siphon line to avoid having to invert the container. The bottle is also being chilled with ice to keep the oxidizer sufficiently dense and improve performance in hot-fire.
The top bulkhead of the hybrid motor is attached to the load cell for thrust measurement. A pressure transmitter is tapped into the nitrous oxide volume to further gauge performance.
The high-powered hybrid motor by Contrails uses four 1/4-inch fill lines and a single smaller vent line from the same floating injector at the mid-point inside
Dave Crisalli (right) inspects the hybrid motor on the test rails before the firing
UCLA Prometheus team tracks their written procedures as they progress to hot-fire in the old blockhouse.

The hybrid motor firing proceeded without further problems and resulted in a spectacular test meeting expected performance. Continuous thrust levels over 600 lbf were recorded but data analysis is still ongoing.

The hybrid motor at startup.
The UCLA hybrid motor at full thrust. Chamber pressure was over 1000 psia.

The team had a second hybrid motor grain ready for another firing so they proceeded with disassembly and inspection of the parts. The floating injector seals were still in good condition but the graphite nozzle having survived many prior hot fire tests did not survive that day’s test. Although the throat was in good condition, the inlet taper had cracked requiring a replacement the team did not have.

The top half of the floating injector with its internal siphon tube protruding up to near the top bulkhead.
The floating injector being removed from the lower half containing the spent fuel propellant grain.
The floating injector was removed after hot-fire and the dual O-ring seals were inspected. Seals were ok for re-use.
The nozzle assembly did not pass inspection after the first and only hot-fire on 05-29-2021.
The graphite nozzle fractured at the inlet taper from the first and only firing that day.

UCLA Prometheus was pleased with the results from the single firing and will proceed with integrating the motor into their flight vehicle for a launch from FAR on June 19, 2021. The RRS will hold an event at the Mojave Test Area on this same Saturday for member projects and will observe the flight from our northern vantage point.

UCLA avionics team conducted a few tests on the GPS tracking module that will fly on their vehicle in June 2021.

In the last hours of the day, after most of the UCLA liquid and hybrid teams had cleared the area, packaged and carried away their trash, packed their equipment and departed the RRS MTA and FAR sites. The UCLA avionics team remained at the MTA to conduct another series of tests on the GPS tracking system. The society was glad to support this diligence which will help assure success in one of the most important aspects of rocketry which is data acquisition from telemetry. If there is no data, it didn’t happen.

For any group interested in using the RRS MTA for their propulsion related projects, download one of our Standard Record Forms from our RRS.ORG website and submit this request to the RRS president. The society has had a long relationship with UCLA and USC, but we are also supportive to any amateur, professional or academic groups wanting to learn from test.

president@rrs.org


MTA launch, 2020-02-22

by Dave Nordling, RRS.ORG


The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held a launch and static fire event for three UCLA teams and one of our own RRS teams at the Mojave Test Area (MTA) on Saturday, 2/22/2020. Poor weather was a persistent threat from the day before with light rains coming and going from the early morning hours and even throughout the launch day. Winds calmed just enough for a successful rail launch of UCLA’s solid rocket motor. Fortune favors the bold and this proverb did not disappoint our participants that day at the MTA.

Rain clouds still filled the skies on a very calm morning. Preparations began for UCLA’s solid rocket motor launch from our rail.

With the liquid and hybrid rockets, Osvaldo Tarditti, our RRS president was our pyro-op in charge. I served as his apprentice for this event as part of building my experience for becoming a pyrotechnic operator 1st Class. This was the second of two apprenticeships I have served under two first class pyrotechnic operators. Osvaldo gave our safety briefing to all of our attendees that day before beginning the scheduled events.

UCLA gathers around to hear our safety briefing. Most have been to the RRS MTA before but we give the briefing each time to reinforce good practices.

UCLA had three projects ready for flight or static-fire at the MTA. The first was the solid motor driven rocket built by the UCLA Project Prometheus team. They were using a commercial K-sized motor with a vehicle equipped with a downward-facing camera built into the lower body.

UCLA’s Project Prometheus built a rail-launched rocket with a commercial solid motor.
The Gerald Ticonderocket in the color scheme of a common wooden pencil.

Elizabeth, the UCLA team leader for this solid rocket project assisted me with the launch preparations. The rail launched rocket worked perfectly and the recovery system operation was visually confirmed as it descended to the west of our launch site.

My 2-1/2 inch rocket with a commercial H-222 hybrid motor from Contrails Rocketry. The body has been extended for better packaging.
The motor has been successfully loaded into the body tube complete with retainer. All that remains is to complete the recovery system packaging and find our next opportunity to launch.

Larry, Osvaldo and I have made progress on improving the 2-1/2 inch rocket with a commercial H-sized hybrid motor. Larry made an extension on the payload tube to fit all of the recovery system more easily. We have the Contrails H222 motor fully integrated and ready for loading.

The RRS reloaded and refurbished our nitrous bottle and valve manifold, but we didn’t get to loading operations.

Our nitrous bottle was refurbished and reloaded for the testing and we successfully conducted a valve test of the manifold that verified that our control box works well. We were reworking the black powder charge and repacking the parachute when the weather shifted and the winds picked up.

Weather changes quickly in the desert. Our smaller rocket missed our window for launch that day.

The weather was perfect 15 minutes earlier with the launch of UCLA’s solid motor, but at the time we were discussing launch of our hybrid motor it became clear the weather would be getting worse and winds too strong for launch of a smaller rocket such as ours. Since the RRS will be returning to the MTA site on Sunday, March 1. We figured we would do some minor improvements to the payload packaging and try again when we are fully confident and hopefully with better weather for the flight.

The hybrid motor is secured to the RRS I-beam. This is one of the very first assets of the society which predates our arrival to this MTA site.
UCLA hybrid rocket team making load cell adjustments on their thrust stand before hot-fire.

UCLA’s hybrid rocket team under the same name, Project Prometheus, sought to static fire a commercial M-sized hybrid motor as part of getting ready for a flight later this semester. They secured their test stand vertically to our historical I-beam location which was the original article from even before the RRS moved to the current MTA site in 1955. The RRS was glad to assist UCLA in securing to this location and making ready for nitrous oxide fill operations then ignition for static fire measurements.

Hot-fire of the hybrid motor took place around 5pm which by all appearances was a success. The motor case was intact and post-flight assessments looked promising, but an error in data acquisition resulted in no thrust measurements being recorded despite successes in pre-test checkout. UCLA is considering re-attempting this testing at the RRS MTA very soon.

UCLA working on their liquid rocket’s pressurant system.

The last of the three projects would be the static fire of the liquid rocket for Project Ares. The liquid rocket team mounted their hardware to the vertical test stand simultaneously as the hybrid rocket team mounted to the I-beam thrust stand. Both teams worked hard to be ready before the other but in the end, the liquid rocket took longer to be ready.

This would be a second attempt to static fire their liquid rocket system from 2/1/2020 at the RRS MTA. UCLA had been finding and fixing leaks in their pressurization system in the weeks leading before this test.

Making some preliminary checks before commencing liquid oxygen tanking of the rocket.

They proved their fixes before departing to the RRS MTA, but again ran into problems with leakage in the pressurant system. After several more repairs and discussion with the team and pyro-op in charge, the decision was made to proceed. All other systems had passed checks and the leak rates measured were consistent and would only reduce the burn time while assuring safe engine hot-fire.

UCLA begins the final operations following their proven checklist.

Around 5:30pm in the last light of that long day, UCLA’s liquid rocket was proven in a brilliant, steady and powerful hot-fire of their ethanol-LOX propellant liquid rocket. It was an exciting time which showed reasonable thrust results that led UCLA to conclude that the testing that day was sufficient to proceed with flight vehicle integration operations for their motor.

UCLA’s static fire on 02/22/2020 was steady and well controlled.
All initial inspections of the liquid motor looked good. Preliminary review of the data was encouraging and will be useful in grounding their vehicle performance predictions.
In the last rays of daylight, all three UCLA teams pose with their project’s pride at the RRS MTA vertical test stand.

UCLA did a great job of cleaning up at the site. They also returned the LOX dewar back to the nearby Friends of Amateur Rocketry site. We’re thankful to everyone who made this day a triple success. Our next launch event is scheduled for March 1st. We’ll also discuss this and our other recent MTA events at the next RRS meeting on March 13, 2020.


December 2018 meeting

The Reaction Research Society (RRS) held its final monthly meeting of our 75th anniversary year, 2018, on our usual 2nd Friday, December 14th.

We were glad to be visited by Waldo Stakes, Curator of the Saxon Museum in Boron, California, and well-known rocket car maker. Wilbur Owens was kind enough to bring Waldo to the meeting.

Wilbur Owens and Waldo Stakes at the December 2018 RRS meeting in Gardena, newly elected RRS treasurer, Chris Lujan looks on

The agenda for December was kept short as the RRS wanted to take some time to celebrate our accomplishments this year.

After coming to order and the reading of the treasury report, we began the shortened agenda.

[1]
The results of the elections were announced by email from our election chairman, Larry Hoffing, who could not attend. The full slate of officer candidates were voted unanimously with no write-in’s.

The RRS officers for 2019 are as follows:

President – Osvaldo Tarditti
Vice President – Frank Miuccio
Secretary – Dave Nordling
Treasurer – Chris Lujan

We thank our appointed election chairman, Larry, for his service.

The newly elected officers will start their new terms at the beginning of the calendar year. All of our appointed positions at the RRS remain the same as the executive council has voted to retain them. We are thankful to all of our new and continuing membership for making this an important milestone year for the society.

[2]
The next topic was to discuss the UCLA hot fire event at the MTA in November. Osvaldo was very impressed with the UCLA team in how well they communicated and their preparation for a safe hot-fire test. Despite having an earlier setback, they recovered to have a hot-fire in the early night hours that gave them valuable data for their next design iteration. The RRS is glad to support university groups with our testing site. It is great when everyone puts safety and organization first.

Osvaldo reads off the list of events we conducted at the RRS over this anniversary year, 2018; Michael Lunny looks on

The RRS has had other university groups express interest in using our Mojave Test Area (MTA). To any groups wanting to use the RRS MTA, please contact the RRS president by email.

president@rrs.org

We also appreciate each group filling out our RRS standard record form to help explain the basics of what they would like to accomplish. The standard record form can be found under “Forms” on the RRS website.

[3]
The last of the scheduled agenda topics was the announcement of the official date of the 2019 RRS symposium. The symposium will be held on Saturday, April 27, 2019, at the Ken Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. As before, we will have entire first floor and outdoor courtyard.

The 2019 RRS symposium will be held on Saturday, April 27, 2019

The RRS has had great success in getting a range of speakers from industry, academia and government agencies. We plan to invite the Navy China Lake, Air Force Space and Missile Center, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, Northrop Grumman, Relativity and the Additive Rocket Corporation just to name a few, as well as several of our local and regional university rocketry groups such as UCLA, USC, Cal Poly Pomona, CSULB and LMU just to name a few. In the new year as invitations go out and we get confirmation, we will update our agenda for the April symposium. We hope to have an even larger turnout both on our stage, at the exhibition and of course our public audience.

The RRS will be holding a 2-hour panel session as the final event in our speaker series. The RRS is working on building this panel from a good cross-section of industry, government and academia to look at the state of affairs in space today and looking ahead to what may come next as the industry expands.

To those who stayed to the end last year, we were provided a rare treat by former member Bill Claybaugh as he presented his assessment of the current aerospace industry. We would strongly encourage everyone to plan to stay the full day as we will be bringing out more special things as the day goes on.

[9]
This topic was on the original agenda, but we thought we wouldn’t have time. RRS member, Alastair Martin, through his company, Production Tribe, is starting a pod-cast called Rocket Talk Radio. RRS director of research, Richard Garcia, and the RRS secretary, Dave Nordling, have agreed to be the first guests on this pod-cast that will talk about current topics in space and rocketry. As the first few podcasts are made, he’ll look to have other guests, to talk for an hour over a range of questions posed by Alastair and the participating audience.

[X1]
Osvaldo went over the long list of events we held at the RRS starting with the Aerospace Corporation launch test of their prototype liquid-hybrid rocket motor, the three launch events we held through the LAPD Community Safety Partnership (CSP) program where we were able to engage 112 kids in the at-risk communities of Watts in Los Angeles. Both USC and UCLA had a lot of success in their respective rocket programs.

Although USC did have a major setback in their Traveller III flight, they are well positioned for a very successful flight on their long journey to be the first university group to break the von Karman line into space with their boosted dart. The RRS is glad to be recurring partner with USC by assisting with their ground testing needs.

UCLA has also had a successful year with their liquid rocket programs and the RRS is glad to continue our support.

New RRS member, Dmitri Timohovich, and myself journeyed out to the MTA on December 2 for a site improvement project to mount the new road sign we had made. As I was feeling very under the weather on that afternoon, Dmitri did a stellar job in helping the society put a visible marker at our big iron gate leading the way into the RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA). The RRS thanks Dmitri for his hard work for the society.

Dmitri Timohovich makes short work of digging post holes with his motorized auger machine.

The new RRS sign at the first iron gate to the Mojave Test Area ready to greet the next visitors

[X2]
RRS member, Jack Oswald, presented his current progress with his large solid motor building project. His team have been working hard this year having some successes and failures, but always learning. His new ballistic evaluation motor design will correct some of the prior deficiencies in the earlier design and is expected to produce high quality results that should finalize his motor design. Jack and his team from the former Chaminade rocketry group have made a lot of progress and have also helped me with my smaller BEM design. Based on our conversation at the December meeting, I think I will have to re-visit some of my assumptions. Many thanks to Jack and his team’s hard work in supporting the society with their ambitious goals.

[X3]
RRS director of research, Richard Garcia, was not able to attend the December meeting, but he did provide a progress update for the RRS standard liquid project. His injector and chamber design is nearly finished and seems to have all the right features to proceed with build. The injector design is based on a previous design used by the RRS in past liquid rocket projects. He is also re-using his ablative chamber liner feature for this smaller 125-lbf LOX-ethanol engine design. His analytical model of the propellant blowdown system seem to anchor his predictions for what will hopefully be a successful hot fire test in this coming new year, 2019. The RRS is working hard to anchor a reliable and simple to build liquid rocket engine system that university groups can use for liquid rocket competitions in the future without having to start completely from scratch. We will provide updates as this project advances.

[X4]
Richard also brought up the idea of building a rocket sculpture to the right of our big iron gate at the MTA. The society welcomed the idea and we hope to bring this concept to life sometime very soon.

Richard Garcia’s rocket sculpture concept; soon to be seen at the RRS MTA

[X5]
Lastly, Frank was presented with a Community Service award by the Los Angeles Women Police Officers and Associates (LAWPOA) to honor the continuing work of the Reaction Research Society with the LAPD CSP. It is with great pleasure that the RRS accepts this recognition and reaffirms our commitment to this strong program that has done a lot of good for the young minds we hope to inspire.

Bill Janczewski holds up the LAWPOA Community Service award presented to the Reaction Research Society; I think I caught Frank a little off-guard in this photo? He was very pleased.

Our next monthly meeting will be on Friday, January 11, 2019. For an update on our intended agenda for each meeting, check the RRS.ORG website under the “Forum” section.

We look forward to starting the new year with preparations for the 2019 symposium and we will need our full membership to help make this event an even greater success.

Also, the RRS is talking about holding one of our monthly meetings at the Tomorrow’s Museum at the Compton Airport. Also, Jack Oswald has been working on getting tours of The Boring Company in Hawthorne and the Point Mugu Naval Base sometime in the new year.

The RRS wishes everyone happy holidays and a happy new year.