updated 9/7/2008 4:28:55 PM ET 2008-09-07T20:28:55

A retired NASA engineer looking to develop an inexpensive way for people to travel to space might have to go back to the drawing board after one of his experiments exploded Saturday.

Jim Akkerman was working on a spacecraft his firm is developing when his rocket fuel exploded. No one was injured and no property was damaged at the accident in Hitchcock, located about 40 miles southeast of Houston.

"It's just an experiment that went bad," police Chief Glenn Manis told the Galveston County Daily News.

Too much methane-oxygen fuel mixture accumulated in the rocket engine when the engine wouldn't fire, causing the explosion, 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 Sunday.

Advent is trying to develop a spacecraft that launches vertically from water and lands horizontally like a seaplane. The winged rocket is 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.

Akkerman was a NASA engineer for 36 years, the Web site said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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