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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 13:26 GMT
Brazil's flawed space bid exposed
VLS rocket undergoes tests at Alcantara (archive)
The explosion was Brazil's worst space programme accident
A report into last year's explosion of a Brazilian rocket that killed 21 people says underfunding and poor management contributed to the disaster.

The VLS-1 VO3 rocket exploded three days before the scheduled launch on 22 August, because of an electrical flaw.

But Brazilian government investigators said decisions taken long before the accident led to a breakdown in safety procedures, maintenance and training.

Brazil is the only South American country that has a space programme.

Damning report

The explosion at the Alcantara Air Base launch-pad was caused by an unidentified electrical discharge that ignited one of the rocket's four solid fuel boosters during the final preparations, the 130-page report said.

Smokes rises from the Alcantara site
The blast could be heard for miles around

The investigating commission stressed that it was unable to determine the exact nature of the electrical problem, saying that a further investigation was under way to reach a definite conclusion.

But the report painted a damning picture of Brazil's space programme.

Reading from the report, Brazil's Defence Minister Jose Viegas said underfunding had left the programme in a "virtual state of hibernation for a dangerously long period".

According to the report, Brazil's "space budget" last year was less than $20m, while India - another developing country nurturing space exploration - spends about $300m a year.

Problems at the launch-pad also included dangerous build-ups of volatile gases, deterioration of sensors and electromagnetic interference, the report said.

It said employees in charge of quality control were overworked and understaffed.

"We observed a lack of formal, detailed risk management, especially in the conduct of operations involving preparations for the launch," the report said.

Mr Viegas said the new centre-left government of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva was committed to investing some $100m in the space programme to make a new rocket launch possible in 2006.

Fatal blast hits Brazil space hopes
23 Aug 03  |  Americas

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