NASA Centers and Facilities routinely procure, store, transport, and handle explosivematerials, pyrotechnics, and propellants (known as energetic materials) in support of Agency programs and projects. Energetic materials consist of any chemical compound or mixture that detonates or deflagrates when subjected to heat, impact, friction, or electricalinitiation (see Figure 1).
Improperly transporting, storing, or handling these extremelyhazardous materials can have catastrophic consequences, including loss of life, seriousinjury, damage to facilities and equipment, damage to the environment, and loss of mission capabilities.
Detonation testing of explosive materials at
White Sands Test Facility
For example, in July 2007 Scaled Composites, LLC, the prime contractor for Virgin
, experienced an explosive mishap that killed three employees,seriously injured three others, and delayed development of a new hybrid rocket engine.The exact cause of the accident was never determined; however, Scaled Composites
Detonation is a violent chemical reaction resulting in heat and a wave of pressure through the reactedmaterial at supersonic speeds. Deflagration is a violent chemical reaction resulting in a wall of flame thattravels at subsonic speeds away from its source of ignition.