ATK train with SRB segments crashes again

by Chris Bergin

Following yesterday’s news of the ATK train carrying Solid Rocket Booster segments had derailed late last week, information is starting to flow on another crash involving the same train near Alabama today.

The train is carrying segments that will be involved were the six remaining RSRM 98 center and forward segments (STS-120) and RSRM 99 aft segments (STS-122). The train is believed to have crashed when a bridge it was travelling over collapsed, with several minor injuries to the crew on board, one seriously.

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The incident happened when a bridge the train was crossing collapsed, injuring six people on board. All injuries are understood to be minor, apart from one person, who has serious injuries – though not life threatening – and has been airlifted to hospital. 

It is not yet know if the segments have been seriously damaged, but given they are solid fueled, they would not have been at risk of exploding.

‘Just found out there was a derailment of a train car shipment early this morning. Several cars containing new segments coming from Utah are off the track and on their sides by early accounts,’ said Constellation manager Steve Cook in an e-mail to NASA workers this afternoon.

‘The crew in the car that rides along sustained critical injuries. The derailment occurred in Pennington, AL. This is a first to the best of our knowledge.  More to come as the day progresses.’

**UPDATE THREAD**  – **Click here for latest, updated article on the accident**

The status of the segments may take some time before damage assessments can be made, with NASA engineers en-route to the scene.

‘RSRM-98 segments (STS-120). Possibly RSRM-99/STS-122 afts involved as well,’ added ATK information. ‘Three segments known to be off the train – one ten feet below the grade (possibly in the water – now believed to be out of the water), one five, one thought to be laying on its side. One forward segment involved.’

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An issue with this incident involves the use of the booster segments involved in this accident (for both STS-120 and STS-122). If one of the segments is determined to need to be scrapped, the other segments and the motor won’t fly, as they are matched sets for the shuttle, in order to minmize trust imbalance. 

They could be used on a Ares 1-X type demo flight, however. The spare motor could be used for static tests as a test item. Certain parts of the scrapped motor would be recycled (washed out and recovered).

If a single segment is damaged, then the same segment from the other motor will be scrapped. However, if two new matching segments can be cast and inserted, this would fix the thrust imbalance issue.

‘Very preliminary info is that as the two locomotives (with our business car (with our escort crew on board) immediately behind followed by a boxcar, 4 segment cars, a boxcar, the AEC car, a box car, then 4 more segment cars) were approaching a bridge over a swamp, the bridge approach collapsed,’ added another NASA memo.
‘The two locomotives went down and over on their side and are down approx ten feet — they pulled the escort’s car over with them – it is on it’s side and all 5 people on board received some injuries, two fairly serious – they are all on their way to hospitals.

The first RSRM segment car dropped with the bridge collapse but is upright with its end either up at an angle (or with the other end dropped down). The next two segment cars, which also dropped with the bridge collapse, are upright and on the dropped track. The fourth segment car apparently dropped and then rolled over on its side. The AEC car and the remaining 4 segments are upright and we believe that they are on track that has not dropped.

This occurred between Pennington and Myrtlewood, Alabama We have established an emergency operations center and are in contact with on-site authorities. We have personnel in Ala enroute to the sight as well as a emergency handling team from Utah getting on a chartered jet to Mobile.’

The previous incident involved the same train, reported by this site yesterday, as it derailed late last week.(Click link to read the article on the previous incident).

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