The bulkhead between a liquid hydrogen tank and a liquid oxygen tank failed due to a series of events. Air services to the building were shut down for repairs and the facility had switched to an emergency nitrogen supply. Failure to switch back to service air when it became available, led to the mishap.

The emergency supply became depleted and two valves in the normal nitrogen purge system failed in the open position, releasing the high-pressure nitrogen gas from the manifold into the liquid hydrogen tank. The gas flow raised the liquid hydrogen tank pressure to 4.5 psig. That was sufficient to rupture the bulkhead wall.