Explosion That Injured 7 Spurs NASA Probe

NASAinvestigators are studying a tank explosion that caused minor injuries atKennedy Space Center during a contractor's independent equipment test justbefore Christmas.

"They're looking atwhat happened and how to prevent it from happening again," KSC spokesmanAllard Beutel said.

Seven people were treatedand released from KSC's medical clinic after the incident, which occurredaround 9 a.m. Dec. 23 outside a cryogenic testing lab on space centerproperty.

Beutel said Lockheed MartinCorp. and ASRC Aerospace Corp. conducted the pressurization test on a compositetank, and that the work was not related to NASA programs.

The vessel, enclosed by ametal cage with a plywood box around it, was intended to leak but not rupture,Beutel said.

Marion LaNasa, a spokesmanfor Lockheed Martin at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, saidthe test involved an unlined, liquid oxygen compatible tank measuring 54 inchesin diameter that is being designed tosupport future launch vehicles.

"We had successfullycompleted some testing cycles and determined we were going to go forward andtest the limits of the hardware," he said. "We were expecting a leakrather than the tank to burst, but certainly everyone understood that there wasa potential for the tank to burst."

He said the contractors andNASA agreed on the testing procedures in advance, and that it would be up toinvestigators to determine if the procedures were adequate.

In addition to the minorinjuries, the blast's force and impact from splintered plywood caused thousandsof dollars of damage to the lab facility, Beutel said. The damaged area istaped off but the building remains open.

A NASA "mishapinvestigation team" is expected to produce a report by late February.

Publishedunder license from FLORIDA TODAY. Copyright ? 2009 FLORIDA TODAY. No portion ofthis material may be reproduced in any way without the written consent of FLORIDATODAY.



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Contributing Writer

James Dean is a former space reporter at Florida Today, covering Florida's Space Coast through 2019. His writing for Space.com, from 2008 to 2011, mainly concerned NASA shuttle launches, but more recently at Florida Today he has covered SpaceX, NASA's Delta IV rocket, and the Israeli moon lander Beresheet.