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Brazilian rocket explosion claims 21 lives
Posted: Sun, Aug 24, 2003, 12:16 PM ET (1616 GMT)
VLS-1 launch (AEB) Friday's explosion of a Brazilian VLS-1 rocket, apparently triggered by a booster ignition, killed 21 people, officials said this weekend. The explosion Friday afternoon at the Alcantara launch complex took place as hundreds of technicians were working on the rocket, preparing it for a launch as early as August 25. The explosion destroyed the rocket and its payload of two small satellites; the conflagration was apparently so intense that coroners have had difficulty identifying the bodies of the victims. Investigators believe that one of four solid-propellant booster rockets ignited prematurely, but do not know what could have triggered the explosion. The Brazilian Space Agency plans to complete the investigation within 30 days. The Brazilian government declared a three-day mourning period for the victims of the accident, and declared that the country would press ahead with its space program.
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