Rocket plant blast injures 3 in Chandler - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Rocket plant blast injures 3 in Chandler

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Posted: Friday, July 4, 2003 3:56 am | Updated: 2:10 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

An explosion at a satellite and rocket manufacturing plant Thursday afternoon in south Chandler injured three workers and rattled the nerves of employees.

The blast occurred about 2:30 p.m. at Orbital Sciences Corp., 3380 S. Price Road, during a routine test of a rocket motor, officials said.

Scott Anderson, 38, was flown to Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, where he was treated for cuts, bruises and a forearm fracture, said Chandler Fire Battalion Chief Dan Couch.

The other two workers, whose names were withheld, were treated at the scene, Couch said.

The three were testing the rocket motor for leaks by pumping helium into the fuel tank when the engine broke apart and exploded, a company spokesman said.

The three men were depressurizing the rocket when it burst, said Mark Haynie, the spokesman.

The rocket motor, which was fitted into a fiberglass tube about 20 feet long with a diameter of 60 inches, had been pressure tested about a month ago, Haynie said. Company officials do not know what caused the motor to blow up.

The blast happened in a testing area outside the main building, knocking down equipment and blowing in several windows which were quickly boarded up. Debris littered a large section of the parking lot which was cordoned off while fire crews worked to clear the area.

Willie Junior, who was working inside the main building, said the blast shook the walls as well as his nerves.

"At first, I thought it might be terrorists," he said shaking his head. "It really shook me up."

Other workers told stories about the powerful blast that knocked pictures off office walls and tipped over objects on desks. Residents in the surrounding neighborhood reported hearing the blast, but there were no other injuries or destruction of property, officials said.

Orbital Sciences Corp. is based in Dulles, Va., and maintains the headquarters for its launch systems group in Chandler.

The plant does engineering work on Taurus, Pegasus and Minotaur rockets,

which are used to launch satellites into space, and suborbital boosters that serve as targets for the U.S. missiledefense program.

The plant, built in 1990, employs about 1,000 people and does not store any rocket fuel, company spokespeople said. The Chandler Fire Department’s hazardous materials crew was called to the plant because there were initial reports that rocket fuel had exploded, Couch said.

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