by Dave Nordling, President, Reaction Research Society
The RRS held a launch event at the Mojave Test Area on Saturday, 4/2/2022. Larry Hoffing was our pyrotechnic operator in charge. It was a very pleasant day with low winds for most of the day.
It was also the first time in a long time that all four members of the executive council were present at the same event. We took the opportunity to capture the moment in a photograph.
The primary project for that day was the launch of 15 Baby Bertha rockets made by the students of Nickerson Gardens over the six-week educational program the society held with the support of LAPD CSP. The rockets give the students a tangible sense of accomplishment and seeing them in flight from the MTA gives them good memories of what hard work can do.
There was an RRS standard alpha made for this occassion which flew at the end. It was prepared by our experienced pyro-op, Larry Hoffing, and made an impressive finish to this school event.
Secondarily, we had a few members of the USC RPL team out at our site to begin repairs of the concrete pad area used in their static fire tests. Removal of the male anchor bolts in USC’s custom mounting pattern were finally distorted too much to be useful. They were a frequent tripping hazard and their removal was a blessing.
Also, the USC RPL team made several contributions to improving the MTA site with earthwork, brush clearance, and just good old fashioned hard work. We’re grateful to them coming out to help keep the site in good shape,
The last portion of the day was spent launching a few more model and high-power rockets before the winds became too high. We used the time to plan our next event and rearranged our materials in our new storage container.
Our next monthly meeting is Friday, April 8th. Contact the RRS secretary for information.
The latest meeting of the Reaction Research Society took place last Friday, June 11th and had 19 attendees – including a guest presentation from the Clarkson University Rocket Club. We kicked off the meeting saying vitrual hello’s and catching up on personal updates – Dimitri is safely in beautiful Alaska but will be down to visit California and may attend an MTA event if one is hosted.
RECENT & UPCOMING MTA EVENTS
The group kicked off society business with Dave Nordling telling us about the highlights from recent events at the MTA – including liquid and hybrid rockets from the UCLA rocket teams. More details are available in the post from Dave here.
Dave also re-iterated his desire that the Reaction Research Society host at least 1 event at the MTA every month, and asked whether other members were interested in attending an event on Saturday, June 19. A few members expressed interest – and Osvaldo agreed to prepare a few Alpha rockets for Dave to possibly launch. The weather is forecast to be 111 deg Farenheit in the desert this weekend, so anyone attending will need to bring lots of water, sun protection, and other preparations to beat the heat!
GUEST PRESENTATION – CLARKSON UNIVERSITY ROCKET CLUB
David Nagy, Benjamin Ellis, and Tyler Brooks from the Clarkson University Rocket Club were our guest presenters for this month. The club is brand-new (it became active this year!) and these students are working to turn it into a fixture at the university in northern New York state. They are currently in the process of soliciting faculty support, building a composites lab, and procuring equipment to get the club off the ground
David, the president of the team, has some previous rocket experience with both high power and liquid rockets – including a 9.5 kN pintle injector rocket engine. The team is currently building their own fiberglass, high power rocket from scratch which they plan to fly on a commercial, CTI 75mm solid rocket rocket motor. This scratch build is not only helping them build out their workspace to do filament winding and carbon fiber layups – they also intend to fly a 3D printed avionics bay with an avionics board designed from scratch. They hope to use the lessons learned from this project to inform work on future, more complicated projects.
The Clarkson University team solicited advice and opinions on their plans for a liquid bi-propellant LOX/Ethanol rocket. The design is currently in its early stages but the specifications are to have 500 lbf thrust, with a fuel-centered pintle injector. They predict that with a 15-second burn time they could build a rocket that would reach an apogee of 35,000 ft. Several RRS members gave their opinions on this design and other challenges involved with starting a fledgling club from scratch. I know many of the members are excited to see what these students will do!
WIRELESS LAUNCH CONTROLLERS
We decided to do a short recap of our recent discussions and presentations from vendors of wireless launch controllers. Dimitri offered to let us use his Cobra system when he returns to California in July, and there was talk of attempting to launch 16 low-power kits at the same time to further test/prove the efficacy and safety of the controllers. RRS members seemed generally impressed with the presentation from Cobra last month, but concern was raised that it’s not a necessary expense. There was a bit of a debate about whether laying and coiling several hundred feet of igniter wire is triple-digit changes the calculation, but Osvaldo has graciously offered to be the cable spooler for any project that requests it.
MTA PERMANENT BATHROOM STATUS UPDATE
The Executive Council updated the membership on progress with the permanent bathroom. After a meeting in Downey earlier this month, it was agreed that RRS member Wilbur would build the container in the LA area and then transport it out to concrete pads which will need to be built at the MTA site (along with a septic solution). The first step of this process has been completed – and the RRS has placed a down payment on a 20 foot “high-cube” shipping container to be used for the bathroom. A schematic of the container is shown below.
The current plan is still to build 2 of these 20-foot containers. Water will be supplied by a well and stored in a tank installed on top of the bathroom or a nearby storage container. The bathroom facility is planned to be located southeast of the Dosa building, alongside the existing storage containers.
NEXT MONTHLY MEETING
The next RRS monthly meeting will be held virtually on Friday, July 9th 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:
The latest meeting of the Reaction Research Society took place this past Friday, May 14th and had 20 attendees – including a guest presenter and a project update from the Compton Comet team, which is composed of RRS members. We kicked off the meeting saying vitrual hello’s and catching up on personal updates.
UPCOMING EVENTS AT THE MTA
The group kicked off society business by planning for upcoming MTA events later this month. Wolfram Blume is continuing progress on the Gas Guzzler, but windy forecasts continue to limit his ability to do further launch testing. Osvaldo and Wolfram planned to visit the MTA on May 16th to do a practice setup for a future static firing and some housekeeping tasks at the property.
Osvaldo also informed the membership about an active day planned for Saturday, May 29th with groups from UCLA planning to do another static firing of their hybrid motor and a liquid rocket launch to 33,000 ft. and a team of students firing model rockets. Several additional RRS members expressed interest in attending this event.
GUEST PRESENTATION – COBRA FIRING SYSTEMS
Scott Smith, the founder of Cobra Firing Systems was our guest presenter for this month, continuing our recent discussions on wireless launch controllers. Scott has been in the pyrotechnics industry for 10 years, and developed Cobra into a 25-person company with roughly 14,000 customers around the word. They have worked with Mythbusters, Disney, and the US Military to name a few.
RRS member questions for Scott focused on safety, in particular the risk of misfires and adding a physical shunt to the system. The data is encrypted, includes checksums, and is built around a US-based company Synapse, which has allowed the company to avoid any reports of accidental misfiring due to stray wireless signals. Cobra firing boxes are modular in nature and allow for what the company calls a “slat” – which allows for a cap to be used as a physical, mechanical shunt on the system.
MEMBER PRESENTATION – COMPTON COMET
RRS student members Manuel Marques, Aarington Mitchell, and Tre Willingham presented on the status of their project the “Compton Comet” which is being built at the Compton Airport under the guidance of RRS members Waldo Stakes and Dave Nordling.
The rocket is a 75% ethanol & liquid oxygen bi-propellant rocket with a regeneratively-cooled engine. The engine is a surplus XLR-11 which should produce roughly 1,500-lbf of thrust, and was originally used in a group of 4 to power the Bell-X1 (the first aircraft to break the sound barrier). The rocket is estimated to reach an altitude of 20,000 km and will use a 2-parachute dual deployment recovery system.
THE FUTURE OF IN-PERSON RRS EVENTS
Members discussed the likelihood of in-person RRS events like the Symposium and meetings at the Gardena Community Center in 2021. It mentioned that the Symposium typically takes between 90 to 120 days to prepare, and it would be unlikely that the RRS would host one before spring 2022. There was a bit more of an optimistic outlook on the monthly meetings with a tentative goal set for a return to the Community Center in August (pending COVID restrictions).
MTA PERMANENT BATHROOM STATUS UPDATE
Designs and plans for the permanent bathroom structure at the MTA have been the main focus of the ongoing, twice-monthly meetings of the RRS Executive Council. Frank updated the membership on the current status of the project, which has gone through several iterations. Currently, RRS member Wilbur is working with professional drafters to get precise designs on paper – including model numbers for things like toilets and water heaters. A precise, written design will help the society get a final product that matches expectations.
The current plan is to build 2 or 3, 20-foot containers with 2 bathrooms each or 1 bathroom and 1 shower. These will be transported to the MTA and installed on concrete plinths which drain to a concrete septic tank and leach field. Water will be supplied by a well and stored in a tank installed on top of the bathroom or a nearby storage container. The bathroom facility is planned to be located southeast of the Dosa building, alongside the existing storage containers.
RRS BY LAWS
The RRS Executive Council has reviewed the recommended changes to the By Laws provided by the 2020 constitutional committee. Following are the By Laws as agreed to by the 2021 RRS Executive Council:
LAUNCHING & STRUCTURES
Richard Dierking raised a question regarding the new structure being built on the Polaris land adjacent to the RRS site, and whether it must be considered an occupied structure during launch testing at the RRS site. This prompted a lively debate about the nuances of the regulatory framework around rocket activities in the Mojave desert, with several members voicing their opinions.
Safety of all personnel must be the #1 priority during activities at the MTA & communication between between the RRS, FAR, and Polaris is the best way to ensure that. Concurrent operations at adjacent properties are avoided when possible, and the RRS maintains relationships with our neighbors so that the Pyrotechnic Operator in charge is in contact with & can ensure the safety of personnel at adjacent property when operations overlap.
NEXT MONTHLY MEETING
The next RRS monthly meeting will be held virtually on Friday, June 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: