MTA Firing Event, 2022-09-10

by Dave Nordling, President, Reaction Research Society


The University of Southern California (USC) Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL) conducted a series of six propellant sample burns for characterizing their latest mixture. I was the pyrotechnic operator in charge for that day. New member and former USC RPL student, Michael Rouleau, was my apprentice that day.

Careful installation of the grains.

Testing took place in the horizontal configuration on our repaired pad with the new 3/4” female pattern using a load cell and chamber pressure transmitters reading from the bulkhead in a modular nozzle can configuration.

USC RPL’s ”Kiwi” subscale propellant grain testing rig.

USC RPL has had several motor failures in recent times which has led this year’s team to try a better known and safer recipe. COVID-19 played a role in creating a knowledge gap. This year’s team hopes to reclaim a success when the full static fire motor is tested at the RRS MTA in a little more than a month.

One of six successful grain firings.

March 2022 virtual meeting

by Keith Yoerg, Secretary, Reaction Research Society


The society held its monthly meeting for March on Friday, the 11th, at 7:30pm by teleconference.

The following items were on the agenda.

  • Chris Lancaster’s presentation on rocket bikes and drag racing history
  • Review of recent MTA events, USC RPL static fire
  • Upcoming events at the MTA
    • Delivery of new 40-foot storage container by Dimitri Timohovich
    • Site maintenance and upgrades
    • Wolframe Blume’s next flight of the Gas Guzzler
    • Bill Inman’s testing for steam rocketry
    • Low power launches
  • Upcoming university event requests and inquiries
    • USC RPL static fire and flight
    • University of Michigan, MASA in May 2022
    • UC Irvine and Cal Poly Pomona
    • UCLA
  • Student classes and launches
    • LAPD CSP – STRIVE event, 4/2/2022
    • YMCA classes, launch on 5/1/2022(?)
  • RRS post office box, renewal and other options

We spent the majority of our time on the subject of early rocketry in drag racing and rocket bikes. Chris Lancaster of Pennsylvania spent an extraordinary amount of time researching this subject and the specific rocket bike built by Henk Vink now on exhibit in Germany. A stand-alone article on this topic may be forthcoming.

Henk Vink, racing a rocket-powered motorcycle in Europe

The MTA firing report from 3/12/2022 covers the events from that day following the meeting. The anticipated events were discussed at the meeting.

The RRS will continue to keep our post office box in Los Angeles (Inglewood) 90009 for another year. The annual cost has been rising but it remains well used for correspondence.

Reaction Research Society; P.O. Box 90933; Los Angeles, CA, 90009

Our director of research, Richard Garcia, agreed to investigate LNG safety guidelines with regard to flaring of this volatile fuel in amateur rocketry applications. He will submit his findings to the council for internal peer review. The RRS will be creating a policy on this issue as some amateur liquid rocket projects intend to use natural gas (largely methane).

example of an industrial-scale flare stack

Further updates to this meeting report are forthcoming.

Next meeting will be April 8th. For those interested in attending, contact the RRS secretary.


MTA Firing Report, 2022-02-12

by Dave Nordling, President, Reaction Research Society


The University of Southern California (USC) Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL) held a static fire test of their third solid motor design in the Earthshaker series. Prior designs resulted in failures and incremental corrections to the design were made for this test. Earthshakiiest was to be the largest impulse motor made by any collegiate team. Osvaldo Tarditti was the pyrotechnic operator in charge.

Earthshakiiest sits ready for static firing at the vertical test stand with sheet metal in place to protect nearby mounting surfaces.

Given the repeated recent failures of USC motor designs, the society required protective barriers installed in the event of another energetic failure. Unfortunately, this would prove to be a wise choice as failure did result right at startup. All personnel were at a safe distance or behind appropriate barriers.

Earthshakiiest motor ruptured at start and burned itself out.
Damage to USC’s test stand was total, The mounting points in the concrete were damaged such that further use is not possible..

The extreme heat from the explosion and fire destroyed the static fire stand, melted portions of the shielding and severely damaged the mounting points such that further use is not possible. USC is working with the RRS to clear and clean up the pad. Many of these tests are very dangerous and can damage our facilities. The society expects all groups to repair, restore or replace any of our assets damaged. A new method of holding future large solid motors is being discussed.

The society thanks our former president, Osvaldo Tarditti, for supporting this event as the pyrotechnic operator in charge and to Bill Inman for also supporting the event on behalf of the society. The operation was conducted safely and much was learned despite the poor outcome. USC will provide details from the testing soon and a path forward,