Former NASA Engineer's Rocket Engine Test Explodes

Former NASA Engineer's Rocket Engine Test Explodes
An artist's illustration of an Advent Launch Services launch. (Image credit: Advent Launch Services.)

HITCHCOCK, Texas (AP) - Aretired NASA engineer looking to develop an inexpensive way for people totravel to space might have to go back to the drawing board after one of hisexperiments exploded Saturday.

Jim Akkerman was working ona spacecraft his firm is developing when his rocket fuel exploded. No one wasinjured and no property was damaged at the accident in Hitchcock, located about40 miles southeast of Houston.

"It's just anexperiment that went bad," police Chief Glenn Manis told the GalvestonCounty Daily News.

Too much methane-oxygenfuel mixture accumulated in the rocket engine when the engine wouldn't fire,causing the explosion, Manis said.

Authorities said Akkermancommitted no crime. Akkerman, who is president of Houston-based Advent LaunchServices, could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.

Advent is trying to developa spacecraft that launches vertically from water and lands horizontally like aseaplane. The winged rocket is designed to glide down to the ocean surface fora safe, controlled landing.

"We believe thatcreating a low-cost, reliable delivery system will lead to more commerciallyviable space programs," according to the company's Web site.

Akkerman was a NASAengineer for 36 years, the Web site said.


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