September 2021 Virtual Meeting


by Keith Yoerg (RRS Secretary)


The latest meeting of the Reaction Research Society took place Friday, September 10th and had 16 attendees, including several members of the University of Michigan Aeronautical Science Association (MASA) team which conducted a long campaign of testing at our MTA site last month. After brief hellos & a short discussion on updates to this website, we got the meeting rolling with a presentation from the MASA team debriefing us on their August tests.

Screenshot of discussion during the monthly meeting

PRESENTATION ON MASA CAMPAIGN AT THE MTA

4 members of the MASA team who were present for the long campaign of testing at the MTA site were at the meeting and provided a presentation detailing how the nearly 2 weeks of work went for the team. A detailed write-up from RRS member Dave Nordling who was on site assisting for some of that time is available here.

MASA logos – Tangerine Space Machine is named after a craft brewed beer local to the Michigan area

While the end goal of conducting a hot fire test was not accomplished, there was a ton of great work and learning opportunities for both the MASA team and the RRS. The first challenge for the MASA team was in driving their equipment all the way from Michigan to Southern California. Unfortunately, they had some equipment suffer damage during the trip when their smaller “Ground Support Equipment” (GSE) trailer broke through the plywood floor of their larger travel trailer. This required them to stop in Texas and complete repairs to the travel trailer before continuing on to the MTA site.

Once at the site, the MASA team set up a 2-shift schedule (9am – 6pm and 5pm – 12am) effectively working 18-hour days to conduct the activities required for their tests. Many of these tasks took a lot longer than the team had anticipated, in particular with the supply and delivery of the gas & cryogenics needed. The MASA team was originally in contact with Airgas, but their communication was with the office closer to their home in the Midwest and not the Southern California branch. Ultimately sorting through those issues proved to be too difficult to secure a delivery while the team was at the MTA, but fortunately they were able to work with Praxair to secure a supply of the gas and cryo.

MASA presenting a great photo of nighttime work at the MTA to the members at the September meeting

Once the gas and cryogenics were at the site, the team was able to complete pressure tests of the fuel side of the system, and were ultimately able to perform 2 coldflow tests through the entire system near their target pressures. These tests revealed many more areas for design improvements that the team hopes to implement, including reducing fittings, changing the location of vents and drains, and possibly even replacing the LOx and fuel tanks.

Improvements the MASA team hopes to implement

This campaign goes down in the books as the longest to ever take place in RRS history, and proved to be challenging for both the MASA team and the RRS. Several society members graciously volunteered their time to help make this testing effort possible, and the experience revealed many ways that the society could improve our procedures to better support extensive tests like this. Namely: limiting the duration of a test period to no longer than 1 consecutive week, requesting that some members of University staff be on-site when these long campaigns take place, and requiring a longer notice time before approving this sort of test were all brought up by RRS president Osvaldo.

PERMANENT BATHROOM

Progress is continuing on the permanent RRS Bathroom structure. Work on cutting holes for doors and windows has been completed on the 20-foot shipping container and delivery is expected imminently to the new work site at Wilbur’s hangar. The next stages of construction including adding plumbing, fixtures, and the doors and windows, and Osvaldo has already acquired some of these items to install

View from inside the container with the doors and vent windows installed

SEPTEMBER MTA EVENT & WORK PARTY

The USC Rocket Propulsion Lab (USCRPL) plan to be out at the MTA site from Friday, September 24th – Sunday, September 26th to conduct a static fire of an 8″ diameter solid rocket motor. The first few days will consist of prep work and the firing is planned on that Sunday. Several members including Bill Inman and John Krell indicated in the meeting that they have stepped up to the Yoerg Challenge and built model rocket kits to fly at the MTA. This will give us a great excuse to test out the new PVC wire rail launchers as well as the newly purchased Cobra wireless firing system.

In addition, the society has decided to use Sunday, September 26th as the date for our annual “Work Party” to perform maintenance and cleaning tasks at the MTA site. The expected tasks we would like to complete are:

  • Weld the plate on the vertical test stand
  • Removal of dry vegetation
  • Move drum of RP1 (from MASA testing) into one of the lockable containers
  • Fix the 2 broken latches on the Dosa Building roll door
  • Prep/measurements in area for new container bathroom

YOUTH ROCKETRY CLASS

RRS Vice President Frank updated the membership on the upcoming youth rocketry class in Boyle Heights with details on the schedule and overall plan. As opposed to 2 alternating classes, we will now be working with a single class of up to 30 students. The classes will run every Friday starting on September 24th, with a launch planned at the MTA site on November 13th. The plan is for each student to build their own Estes Baby Bertha kit and fly it twice on launch day. RRS Secretary Keith is currently working on 3D printing fin alignment jigs for the students, which will help in both teaching the students about that technology as well as properly installing straight & aligned fins on their rocket kits.

Several of the 3D printed fin alignment jigs

MISCELLANEOUS DISCUSSION

The end of the meeting consisted mostly of miscellaneous discussions around the various projects that RRS members are currently working on. Some of the highlights included John Krell’s new, very small (20x80mm) electronics board capable of collecting 7 channels of data onboard a flight, with over half of those channels at 500 Hz! Bill Inman updated members on the progress with his Solar Cat steam rocket, and there was a brief discussion of ham radio operations with Tom Hendricks sharing some of his wealth of knowledge in that subject. Overall it was a fun meeting with a lot of good discussion & participation from the membership.

NEXT MONTHLY MEETING

The next RRS monthly meeting will be held virtually on Friday, October 8th 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:

secretary@rrs.org

Please check your spam folders and add secretary@rrs.org to your email whitelist to make sure you receive the invitation.

MTA Launch Event, 2021-08-28


by Dave Nordling, Reaction Research Society


The RRS Mojave Test Area (MTA) was used by the student group, Michigan Aeronautical Science Association (MASA) of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  Given the remoteness of the RRS MTA and the great distance that the Michigan team was willing to travel, MASA had planned an extended test campaign to use the site for their cold flow and ultimately hot-fire their RP-1/LOX 2,550 lbf liquid rocket engine.  Originally planned for a week, the team arrived on Monday, August 16th, and continued to use the MTA site through August 28th.  In the end, Michigan faculty called the end of the MASA test series as the new semester was starting and many materials needed to be returned before MASA left southern California.

The MASA logo on the back door of the mobile trailler.
Initial checks of the mobile propellant supply trailer. Over the road travel loosened a lot of plumbing joints.

MASA is a new student group to the society and had very ambitious goals in what they wanted to accomplish in the planned test series.  Typically, the RRS will work with new universities and new clients over a period of many months before agreeing to a first test series at the MTA on a weekend campaign.  Proper planning is an essential requirement for success and the RRS must become thoroughly familiar and comfortable with all planned use of the MTA site.  Like with all attendees to the MTA, indemnification waivers were required from all attendees including spectators.  MASA limited their staff to only essential personnel and ran a day and night shift to both safeguard their equipment through the night and provide continuous support to prepare for the next day’s events.  The team was able to find rented housing accommodations in the local areas of California City and Ridgecrest.

Nate Campbell verified valve functions in conjunction with the mobile control trailler.
The MASA control room was well equipped and was able to safely and remotely conduct test operations.
More leak checks under the rising moonlight and electric lamps at the RRS MTA.

MASA has had a couple years of experience with their propellant flow systems in laboratory tests at the university and was willing to hold several meetings with RRS members sharing their full test procedures and schematics, and answer questions posed by RRS pyrotechnic operators in advance of their arrival.  The MASA fluid systems had many appropriate safety features and used high quality valves and parts.  MASA has developed a control system that uses motorized needle valves in place of a pressure reducing regulator for independent propellant tank pressure controls.  MASA had conducted many tests of this system and held several tests to confirm proper operation in the early steps of their MTA campaign.

The MASA liquid rocket engine, RP-1 and LOX, rated for 4300 lbf thrust but the hot-fire goals of this campaign was 2550 lbf.

MASA’s system designs also had some problems with the nitrogen compressor (booster) system being unable to operate due to a regulator failure. The team was able to bypass the unit, but it limited the top pressure of the blowdown tests to the bottle pressure (2000 psi). A few changes were necessary for vent line routing to improve operational safety. Remote pressurization operations were safely executed but proceeded very slowly and thus a great degree of boiloff in the LN2 limited run time.

The composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) originally was intended for compressed natural gas service in ground vehicles. These vessels have a good safety record in demanding applications and are often used in de-rated aerospace applications.
The MASA team made several changes to their vent line routing for improved safety.

The event was successful in some respects that it gave the students a practical understanding of how to conduct test operations under desert conditions.  It also revealed some of the shortcomings in their plumbing design (leaks) which they were able to fix well enough to get to cold flow with cryogenic LN2 and water on the last day of testing (when this report is dated).  The cold flow tests provided useful data in their control algorithm which will be useful to the next series of tests.  MASA also gained experience in safe cryogenic tanking and operations with these hazardous fluids.

MASA team proceeded into LN2 tanking of their oxidizer propellant tank for the cold flow test through their engine and plumbing.

Logistics was a big challenge for the MASA team due to errors in their communication with local suppliers.  Nitrogen and helium gas bottles were significantly delayed and cryogenic liquid nitrogen cylinders also were very late to arrive at the MTA.  Some of these problems can be easily mitigated for the next test campaign now that relationships have been better established. While MASA was disappointed with some of the outcomes from the test series, they are interested in returning to the RRS MTA in the latter part of this calendar year.  This follow-on test series will be discussed at length in the coming months.

A gang of nitrogen bottles sit chained togeither in a pressurant feed manifold.

The society was similarly challenged in supporting this MASA campaign.   The society is grateful to everyone who assisted at the MTA (Osvaldo Tarditti, Waldo Stakes, Bill Inman and myself) or those who gave their comments and concerns (Larry Hoffing, Jim Gross).  Several members spent multiple days at the MTA both during the week and on weekends.   The RRS provided the necessary oversight during the hazardous portions of the testing campaign which was particularly difficult to schedule during weekdays.  The MASA team was very open and disciplined in their interactions with the society.  The RRS was also glad for the University of Michigan’s support and communications throughout this event.

It was a challenging event which was made possible by the contributions of many RRS members over many days.  Frequent communication between MASA faculty and the RRS was a firm requirement on all days of this tenacious campaign and the MASA team provided daily briefings on their progress.

The MASA team showed tremendous dedication and perseverance sex shop over this extended campaign in the summer heat of the Mojave deset.
Cold flow testing complete with pressurized LN2 through the oxidizer path and water through the fuel path.

This testing campaign and current RRS policies will be discussed at the next monthly meeting, 9/10/2021.  Pursuant to our mission statement, the society is glad to support projects of this kind to universities capable of conducting safe experiments at our unique testing site and to those who are willing and able to provide the society with sufficient advance notice to review their reports, schematics and inspect their hardware.  This campaign is firm proof that we will need more licensed pyro-ops and more members available to support any similarly extended test series in the future if they are accepted by the council.  By building and enforcing a consistent and fair policy for all new and prior clients, the RRS can better operate to the benefit of everyone.

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.

president@rrs.org




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August 2021 Virtual Meeting


by Keith Yoerg (RRS Secretary)


The latest meeting of the Reaction Research Society took place Friday, August 13th and had 12 attendees who came and went, including a prospective student member. We had a lot of topics to discuss and some members had to leave early so we got right down to society business from the start of the meeting.

Screenshot of discussion during the monthly meeting

YOUTH ROCKETRY CLASS PLANNING & UPDATES

The RRS starting to plan for youth outreach classes – which have been on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, due to the delta variant the LAPD classes that were being planned for September at the Strive learning center have been postponed. However, it looks like we are on track to begin classes with the Boyle Heights YMCA after labor day.

This class is expected to have up to 60 students – which will be split into 2 groups that will attend every other Friday at 4pm on a rotating schedule. The current plan is to hold 5 classes per group, which means the program will run for 10 straight weeks. Any RRS member interested in helping during these classes will be required to complete a LiveScan background check. Please contact Frank at vicepresident@rrs.org for more details if interested.

Baby Bertha kit built by RRS Secretary Keith Yoerg

The current plan is for each student to build their own “Baby Bertha” model rocket manufactured by Estes. The EC is currently organizing logistics to allow each student an opportunity to fly their rocket twice (assuming the first launch is successful, of course!) at our MTA site in late October or early November. In addition, we are looking at the instructors building a high power rocket in tandem to show the similarities and differences between the construction methods. A demonstration flight of the high power rocket would be held on the same day as the model rocket flights, to give the kids a sense of what a more powerful flight would look like.

Discussion at the meeting included ideas around fast-drying non-toxic glue options for the model rockets, 3D printed fin alignment jigs to ensure arrow-straight flights of the kits, and logistics around the launch day like adding more low-power launch pad capabilities to the MTA site. We may also try to add an onboard camera to the high power kit to show the students a view of the ground falling away from onboard the rocket!

PERMANENT BATHROOM & OTHER MTA UPGRADES

Progress is continuing on the permanent RRS Bathroom structure. Work on cutting holes for doors and windows has been completed on the 20-foot shipping container and delivery is expected imminently to the new work site at Wilbur’s hangar. The next stages of construction including adding plumbing, fixtures, and the doors and windows.

RRS president Osvaldo informed the membership that he purchased a forklift attachment for the backhoe that is stationed in the Mojave desert – which will be a great help with moving tanks and other heavy items that are often required for liquid rocket tests at the MTA. Members also discussed upgrading the launch structures at the site, including an idea for an adapter to allow Alpha and Beta micrograin rockets to use the same rail system and moving over the large launch tower from the “graveyard” on the northern end of the MTA to a more permanent & upright location.

AUGUST MTA LAUNCH EVENTS

After a short review of the July MTA events (writeups by Dave Nordling can be found here and here), members were briefed on the “long campaign” work that is underway by the University of Michigan rocket club “MASA” this month. While typical events at our desert site last only 1-2 days, this campaign is expected to run for 10 or even 14 days total. The exact length of time that they will be at the site depends on how quickly they are able to meet their objectives.

Some info on the MASA liquid engine that is undergoing testing at the MTA

The ultimate goal of the campaign is to conduct a static, hot fire of their 2,500 lbf (10s total impulse) liquid rocket engine. The engine runs on RP-1 and LOX, and utilizes liquid nitrogen and helium as pressurants. Several RRS members and Pryotechnic Operators have generously volunteered their time on both weekdays and weekends to assist the student team in meeting their goals. A writeup of the events will be posted to this site after the testing.

OSVALDO’S MICROGRAIN ROCKET AVIONICS

RRS president Osvaldo Tarditti provided a show-and-tell of his screw type avionics switch, a very clever way to activate onboard rocket electronics when space is at a premium. This is certainly the case in the RRS Alpha and Beta micrograin rockets – which this switch was designed for. The basic mechanism uses 2 sets of electrically separated nuts with wire leads soldered on, which are epoxied to a bulkhead and affixed to the inside of the rocket’s nosecone.

Osvaldo showing his procedure for soldering a lead onto the nuts

When a screw is inserted – the circuit is completed between the nuts and the attached electronics turn on. With proper placement of the bulkhead and a hole drilled in the nosecone, this screw can be installed from the outside of the rocket just prior to launch.

The switch & bulkhead installed in an Alpha rocket nosecone – note the leads attached to both nuts.

Osvaldo completed the avionics package with a mercury switch and a cheap timing circuit board with multiple programming options. When placed together and activated on the launch pad, the mercury switch is jostled during launch which starts the countdown on the timing circuit board. When pre-programmed with the proper timing delay, the timing board countdown will coincide with the apogee of the rocket’s flight path and deploy a parachute. The hope is that this will allow for a more consistent recovery of Alpha & Beta rockets after launches.

CESARONI TECHNOLOGY / CESARONI AEROSPACE

Late in the meeting we were joined by RRS member and rocketry entrepreneur Anthony Cesaroni, who told members more about his companies and the time he spent at the MTA back in the 90s. With locations in Toronto, Florida, and Spaceport America (New Mexico) Anthony’s companies are major players in munitions, solid rocket motors, and even liquid engine components for Virgin Galactic. Among the major projects underway currently is a full 4-stage orbital vehicle, with hopes of full launches from Wallops and Kennedy Space Center in the 2023/2024 timeframe. Members were very excited welcome Anthony back into the fold and hear about the great work his companies are doing.

RRS WEBSITE UPDATES

The final topic of the evening was regarding updates to this website. The general consensus among members was that it is time for a fresh look and modernization to the website, and there was a robust discussion of the different avenues (and associated prices) that could be pursued. Anyone interested in helping to make this a reality can contact RRS secretary Keith at secretary@rrs.org.

NEXT MONTHLY MEETING

The next RRS monthly meeting will be held virtually on Friday, August 11th 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:

secretary@rrs.org

Please check your spam folders and add secretary@rrs.org to your email whitelist to make sure you receive the invitation.

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