Reaction Control System Oxidizer Pressure Vessels
In January 1965, a Reaction Control System (RCS) pressure vessel (titanium alloy Ti-6Al-4V) on an Apollo spacecraft cracked in six adjacent locations. It used N2O4 for vehicle attitude control through roll, pitch, and yaw engines, and was protected from the N2O4 by a Teflon positive expulsion bladder. Investigation (visual inspection, pressure testing of 10 similar vessels, and chemical testing of the N2O4) supported the conclusion that the failure was due to stress corrosion from the N2O4, and specifically from a specification change in the military specification MIL-P-26539. Recommendations included revising the specification to require a minimum NO content of 0.6%.