An engineering team has designed a glovebox to monitor M55 rockets, which have motors slated for disposal outside the Blue Grass plant.
“In the destruction process, M55 rockets will be separated between the agent-filled warhead and the propellant portion of the rocket, known as the motor,” said Kevin Rankin, systemization integration manager, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “To ensure the safety of downstream workers handling the rocket motors, we need to monitor the motors to confirm they are free of chemical-agent contamination before they move on to the next step. A glovebox is a safe, simple and proven way to do this.”
The glovebox will allow operators to monitor the rocket motors without having to wear high levels of protective gear, Rankin said. Rockets will be sealed into the glovebox and technicians will manipulate them using agent-resistant gloves attached to ports in the box. If the rockets are contaminated, then they will be overpacked and processed with other leaker rockets.
If no agent contamination is detected, Rankin said, the rockets will start the destruction process, where the warhead and rocket motor are separated. The warheads will be processed and destroyed on site, while the rocket motor section will be placed into a box with other motors.
“There should be no chemical-agent contamination, as the two sections of the rocket are separate of each other,” said Steve Mantooth, mechanical engineer, Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. “But there is a very slight possibility of motor contamination if a rocket leaks within its shipping and firing tube, so we developed this process to ensure motors leaving the facility are non-contaminated.”
The initial monitoring at the gloveboxes will help guarantee worker safety and prevent the possible contamination of equipment used in processing the rocket motors, Mantooth said. A final monitoring process occurs after the rocket motors are placed in a box for storage and shipment.
The Blue Grass plant will use two gloveboxes, with a third as a backup. The boxes will be fabricated off-site and delivered to the plant.