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Brian Welch April 21, 1994

RELEASE: 94-030

NITROGEN TETROXIDE ACCIDENTALLY RELEASED

At about 11:10 a.m. CDT today, a small quantity of nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) was accidentally released from the Thermochemical Test Area at the Johnson Space Center during a test setup. This restricted area is located near the northern boundary of the Johnson Space Center.

The resulting cloud of N2O4 traveled westward and began to dissipate. All isolation valves in the test facility were immediately closed. Traffic in the vicinity of the cloud was halted briefly. Tests conducted downwind 30 minutes after the incident showed no detectable concentrations of the substance at ground level.

There were a number of minor injuries reported. As of 4 p.m. CDT, approximately 46 people had been treated at the JSC Clinic and at local hospitals for mild respiratory symptoms.

The Houston Fire Department and their hazardous materials team responded, as well as members of the Johnson Space Center emergency response team. A mishap investigation team is being formed by JSC management. As with any release of chemicals of this type, Texas state agencies have been notified.

Nitrogen tetroxide is an oxidizer used in some rocket engines. The Space Shuttle Reaction Control System and Orbital Maneuvering System rockets, for which JSC is responsible, use N2O4 as an oxidizer. JSC periodically performs small component level testing of this type.

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