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SacL5 Meeting 11/11/23

Meeting Notes

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SacL5 Zoom meeting minutes for 11112023 – Joseph Bland

  • Participants:
    Joe Bland (P, T)

    Eric James
    Jan Roston Michael Abramson Paul Turner (VP)

    Treasurer’s report by Joe Bland:
    ~$9K in bank & $4.5K prepaid to JP Aerospace for MiniCube balloon flights for

    high schools.
    Paul urged caution on tying up money in an investment such as a CD,

    there may be accounting issue such as audits that burn up a lot of time. And the money made would not be much. If half the present cash was put into a 2 year investment that earned 5%, that’s only $225. Joe pointed out that $225 would equal dues (at $35) for about 6 SacL5 members, which most chapters would not sneeze at. He also pointed out that, at 10 MiniCubes flown per year, at the present $400 price, is about $8K over two years. With the present pre-pay to JP Aerospace, that would leave about $4K invested and $1.5K still available for additional expenses over the next two years, assuming no additional donations from Ed. Paul reiterated that he’d still like to do some research on the accounting questions before we make a move, and Joe agreed, especially since the issue has been put on hiatus as he deals with other issues.

    The conversation then segued to an early discussion of the SacL5 MiniCube Contest. Joe pointed out that, if the Contest literally “got off the ground”, there might be many alternative sources of donated money to not only keep the contest going but even grow it to more than 10 MiniCubes/year. He also suggested that working this now with a relatively small amount of money would be a good test case if there were eventually a substantial donation income stream for the Contest, when it would be even more important to “grow” held donations while the Contest expanded.

    Paul then talked about a possible Spring 2024 balloon launch, and that it might mean that the first Contest launch would happen then. Paul said that there were many PongSats waiting for launch, including the dozen or so from SES. Joe said that SES knows that they have to wait in line for their PongSats to be

    launched, and that in his opinion they should not be given “cuts”. Joe also cautioned about SES getting ready to launch by then, since there has to be (1) a suggestion or suggestions for what will be launched, ideally generated by the students themselves; (2) a decision on what will be flown; (3) the design phase (with possible help from SacL5 members); (4) the construction phase (also with possible help from SacL5 members); and (5) the pre-flight verification phase (with possible involvement by JPA itself) – all of which needs to be completed prior to an actual launch.

    Paul said that it may be that we want John to do more than one flight/year. Joe agreed that that was ideally what would happen, if the MiniCube contest really “took off” and more donations started getting added to SacL5’s coffers. Joe said that it was his impression that MiniCubes were profitable for JPA, and rightly so, especially since other folks flew balloons to high altitudes, and thus nothing kept other balloon flyers from also lofting MiniCube-like experiments for profit. Joe then asked Paul how much JPA would expect to fly a balloon of only MiniCubes. Paul said he is sure it’s over$10K per flight. Joe pointed out that would equal 25 MiniCubes. The only question was could a JPA balloon lift that many, at 0.25 kg per item, or a total of 6.25 kg. Paul said JPA balloons can lift about 22 lb or 10 kg. That would equal about 40 MiniCubes. At $400 per, that would equal a potential income of $16,000 per flight.

    All that, of course, would depend on growing donations to the Contest. Joe suggested several possibilities, such as KickStarter, NSS donations, and grants/ endowments from Benevity and MacArthur Foundation. In Kickstarter, you could give someone who sponsors 40 MiniCubes the ability to fly a sign next to them as their sponsor, including a picture from 20 miles altitude.

    Paul said that he was thinking along similar lines for the site. He suggested that he and Ed could do a little video and run it both on SacL5’s site, JPA’s site, and Paul’s site. Paul was talking with John, who said that he’s been planning a funding system for the long term, maybe 2 years out. He asked Paul to hold off on PongSat donation buildup until then.

    Joe then brought up the issue with attribution for photos published by NSS, and how much more scrutiny NSS was giving to publishing photos (they were actually sued a few years back because a member published an unattributed photo via NSS). Paul suggested getting a copy of the NSS’ “release form”, and he would publish it on a “space news” channel that he would start. Joe said he will look into whether or not NSS has such a form.


    Jan, who had to leave, then gave us his minutes from the last NSS Chapters’ Assembly Report (for Saturday morning, 10/7/2023) by Jan Roston: • Chapter Resources Subcommittee:

    • Perri Doutre reported on the Chapters’ Assembly Resources Subcommittee (see resources/ ).

    • There was a discussion on the solar eclipse (see https:// ).

    • Perri approaching Rod Pyle to list Chapter highlights in NSS’ Ad Astra magazine.

    • Perri suggested having bumper stickers made of NSS Logo as part of active promotion to attract more people for the organization. An action item was created to cost estimate bumper stickers for possible budget.
    • NSS Downlink: Apparently in limbo because the person writing for it can no longer do so. NSS is looking for someone to take that over. Offering $250/ month @$25/hour.

    • No nomination was submitted for CA Executive Secretary. Perri will look into submitting an ad ini the NSS Downlink.

    • New Business:
    • Avinash Shirode noted that his plans for a World Space Week failed

    because nobody at NSS responded. Joe Bland stated that he had reached out to Avi and had worked hard to get it off the launching pad, but ran into organizational problems because the CA had “booked” that Saturday morning for their meeting. Avi had asked Joe to host his celebration, but the time and day had already been booked for new NSSCA Chair Prathmesh Barapatre’s CA meeting.. Joe made several suggestions on how to handle things, but time ran out as the celebration approached and nothing had been firmed up and agreed to. Jan agreed that there was some extended conversation that suggested an attempt had been made.

    • Board of Directors met – election coming up – Avi will be running for Region 1, which includes India and Southern California (SacL5 is in Region 2).

    • There was a brief discussion of India’s Moon landing.

    • The Chapter Rules are being reworked to “modernize” them and possibly to give them more NSS support.

    • Joe noticed that on the last CA Minutes Jan Roston was left off as being in attendance. Jan said that he would mention that when he attended the next meeting (scheduled for Monday, Nov. 13th) and ask for an approval of the minutes.

    Jan and Michael both had other engagements at 7 and signed off. Since Ed couldn’t attend, the discussions on the SacL5 website and the Chapters’ Assembly Resources Subcommittee were deferred until the next meeting. And since the subject of the SacL5 MiniCube Contest was discussed during the Treasurer’s report, that item was deferred as well.

    Eric was asked to update the group on his miniature “walking beam” steam engine project. Eric said he’s in the process of making a whole bunch of “tiny little parts” in his garage machine shop. Here’s a picture of the final project as shown in AutoCAD solid modeling.


    Eric’s model will not be a true steam engine, but will instead use compressed air to operate the double-acting piston in the cylinder (at the far

    right), injecting compressed air through sliding valves (attached to the cylinder) which are operated by the big beam on top (working something like an oil well pump). This engine would have exhausted steam into the atmosphere, which meant that, for example, if it were used to power a train, the train would stop every ten miles or so to fill up the water tank on the train.

    Later, after a discussion on Joe’s current project, the discussion turned briefly back to steam engines, talking about valving for steam engines, specifically a type of valve called a “bash valve”. Joe found an example on Wikipedia of a bash valve, and shared it with Paul and Eric.

    The meeting was ended about 7 PM. 
Meeting Details for each Months Meeting
Meeting Call: Sacramento L5 Society, Local Chapter, National Space Society
Where: Virtual presence only, via Zoom
When: Second Saturday, each month
Pre-Zoom notes:
•These meetings are recorded.
•Folks will be asked to briefly share their video, and phone callers asked to identify themselves.
•We use the “waiting room” format. If I keep you waiting, call me and bawl me out! 916-429-6252
Join Zoom meeting:
Find your local number:
Meeting ID: 868 9868 4719
Joe Bland
President, SL5S
7482 Greenhaven Drive
Sacramento, CA 95831
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