Thursday, October 29, 2009

Live At KSC: Pad Evacuated After Propellant Leak

BLOGGER UPDATE, 12:19 P.M.: The commodity leaking at launch pad 39B now is being identified as hydrazine rather than nitrogen tetroxide. Hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide are the fuel and oxidizer, respectively, used in the shuttle's Auxiliary Power Units as well as its Reaction Control System and Orbital Maneuvering System. The leak was detected on the 95-foot level of the pad between the Payload Changeout Room and the Fixed Service Structure. A team of inspectors wearing special breathing apparatus are now capping the leak. The pad is expected to be reopened for normal operations later this afternoon on second shift.

NASA evacuated dozens of news photographers and workers at Kennedy Space Center's around launch pad 39B today after a rocket propellant leak was detected on the western side of the complex.

No actual exposure to the toxic hydrazine was reported and none of the evacuees required medical attention, NASA officials said. But 10 people were sent to the Occupational Health Facility as a precautionary measure required by NASA procedures.

The leak occurred about 8:40 a.m. as news photographers were gathering remote cameras that had been placed around the inside and outside the pad area to capture images of the Ares I-X rocket, which blasted off Wednesday on a $445 million test flight. Alarms rang out and about two dozen photographers and a like number of pad workers hustled out of the area.

"Everybody was running. I'll tell you, they weren't hanging around," Florida Today photographer Michael R. Brown said. Brown had been picking up cameras outside the pad area and was with a group entering the perimeter gate when the alarms sounded.

The leak was the second detected at the pad since the Ares I-X launched on Thursday. A small red cloud of nitrogen tetroxide was observed by pad "safing" teams as they entered the complex about two-and-a-half hours after the test flight, which took off around 11:30 a.m.

Workers outfitted in Self-Contained Atmospheric Pressure Ensembles, or SCAPE suits, pinpointed the leak at the northwest of the Rotating Service Structure where it connects with the Fixed Service Structure. The leak came from a flex hose on a heritage shuttle oxidizer line on the 95-foot-level of the gantry. Residual amounts of nitrogen tetroxide in the line escaped the flex hose, creating the small pinkish-orange cloud.

"The leak in that flex hose is the kind of thing those teams are trained to handle, and the went right in and secured it," said NASA spokesman George Diller.

A NASA Test Director report described the operation as "calm, efficient and effective," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image of the Ares I-X rocket blasting off from launch pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday. You can also click the enlarged image to get an even bigger, more detailed view. The image shows shuttle Atlantis in the foreground on pad 39A, which is located about a mile-and-a-half south of the Ares I-X launch pad. Atlantis is scheduled to blast off Nov. 16 on an International Space Station supply mission. Photo courtesy of Scott Andrews, Canon


Anonymous said...

Ares I-X launched on Wednesday, not Thursday.

Anonymous said...

So the fault was with the shuttle legacy hardware, not with Ares stuff. The headline gives an opposite impression.

Todd Halvorson said...

Ooops....Thanks for the heads up on the date....It's fixed......

On the headline: I took the word "Ares" out of the headline....not because I think it implicates Ares. But because the headline slopped over to the second line so I needed to cut a word anyway.....

Anonymous said...

I wonder if that aggressive roll maneuver as sson as Ares I-X launched caused the RSS to get smacked by exhaust. Any word on damage to RSS/FSS?

Todd Halvorson said...

I asked about that -- pad/MLP damage -- this morning, and I was told that there was no significant damage to the RSS, and NASA Test Director status reports last night and early today did not mention any infrastructure damage. That said, NASA officials do think the flex hose leak yesterday might have been caused by launch vibration....Not sure about the one today.

Chris Anton said...

NASA Test..
Thanky Nice Post
Goood Blog.. Thanks

Rafay Qureshi said...

is it because of Hydraulic Accumulator faliure ?