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Enabling & Support

N° 21–1995: Submission of Enquiry Board's provisional report on fatal accident at Guiana Space Centre

19 May 1995

Following ESA press release 19-95 dated 10 May 1995, CNES, the prime contractor for ESA's Ariane-5 programme and authority responsible for the Guiana Space Centre, announces the following:

In the wake of the fatal accident on 5 May 1995 at the Guiana Space Centre in the new Ariane-5 launch area undergoing testing, the Enquiry Board set up by the Director General of CNES submitted its initial findings on 17 May.

These confirm that:

- the cause of death was asphyxiation through inhalation of air having an excessively low oxygen content;
- the reduced oxygen content was due to a major nitrogen leak into the confined structure of the umbilical mast on the launch table;
- the nitrogen leak originated in a nitrogen/iced water exchanger, whose drainage plug was found to be missing. The stage in the study or development process at which there was defective precision or comprehension of the system design has yet to be determined. The Enquiry Board's detailed final report, which is expected in early June, should pinpoint this. In addition, the Procureur de la République will by then have the detailed report of the forensic investigation proceeding on his behalf.

The plug that was missing has been replaced.
All staff have been further reminded of the safety rules applicable. The CNES management, after taking advice from the Procureur de la République and the Inspecteur du Travail, has expressed a favourable opinion on the resumption of the current campaign of testing.

The cryogenic main stage M1 test has been rescheduled and could take place as of 20 May 1995.