"It's just an experiment that went bad," Hitchcock Police Chief Glenn Manis told the Galveston County Daily News. The explosion, which happened at a former blimp base, occurred because too much of a methane-oxygen fuel mixture accumulated in the rocket engine after the engine wouldn't fire, Manis said.
Authorities said Akkerman committed no crime. Akkerman, who is president of Houston-based Advent Launch Services, could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.
Advent is trying to develop a spacecraft that launches vertically from water and lands horizontally like a seaplane. It is a winged rocket designed to glide down to the ocean surface for a safe, controlled landing.
"We believe that creating a low-cost, reliable delivery system will lead to more commercially viable space programs," according to the company's Web site.
According to his company's Web site, Akkerman was a NASA engineer for 36 years and worked on a variety of projects during his career, including orbit maneuvering systems, solar power satellites and high altitude airplane engines.
He formed his firm after retiring in 1999.
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