Explosion That Injured 7 Spurs NASA Probe
NASA investigators are studying a tank explosion that caused minor injuries at Kennedy Space Center during a contractor's independent equipment test just before Christmas.
"They're looking at what happened and how to prevent it from happening again," KSC spokesman Allard Beutel said.
Seven people were treated and released from KSC's medical clinic after the incident, which occurred around 9 a.m. Dec. 23 outside a cryogenic testing lab on space center property.
Beutel said Lockheed Martin Corp. and ASRC Aerospace Corp. conducted the pressurization test on a composite tank, and that the work was not related to NASA programs.
The vessel, enclosed by a metal cage with a plywood box around it, was intended to leak but not rupture, Beutel said.
Marion LaNasa, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, said the test involved an unlined, liquid oxygen compatible tank measuring 54 inches in diameter that is being designed to support future launch vehicles.
"We had successfully completed some testing cycles and determined we were going to go forward and test the limits of the hardware," he said. "We were expecting a leak rather than the tank to burst, but certainly everyone understood that there was a potential for the tank to burst."
He said the contractors and NASA agreed on the testing procedures in advance, and that it would be up to investigators to determine if the procedures were adequate.
In addition to the minor injuries, the blast's force and impact from splintered plywood caused thousands of dollars of damage to the lab facility, Beutel said. The damaged area is taped off but the building remains open.
A NASA "mishap investigation team" is expected to produce a report by late February.
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