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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 17:37 GMT
Fatal fire at India space centre
A fire has ripped through India's main space centre killing at least six people, police say.

A number of people were also injured in the blaze at the Sriharikota centre, on an island off Andhra Pradesh state.

Reports say an explosion triggered the fire at a solid propellant plant, where advanced rocket fuel is prepared. The fire is reported to be under control.

The centre, built in 1971, assembles and tests rockets, and has a satellite launch pad used by several countries.

It is not clear how much damage has been done to the site.

"We are trying to assess the extent of damage," Madhavan Nair, who leads India's space programme, said, the Associated Press news agency reports.

"As of now, [the fire] will not affect any of our immediate projects."

Satellite launches

The Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota is the main launch base of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

A rocket on its launch pad at Sriharikota
A rocket on its launch pad at Sriharikota

It is situated 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the city of Madras.

Several craft carrying telecommunications and imaging satellites for a number of countries have been put into orbit from the site.

Correspondents say India has impressive ambitions in the field of space travel.

Last year the government announced plans for an unmanned flight to the Moon, probably in 2008. The project is estimated to cost 3.5bn rupees ($74m).

The plan envisages sending a 250kg remote sensing satellite, which will be launched by India's own indigenously developed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

The project aims to explore the surface of the Moon.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"The fire has now been extinguished"



SEE ALSO:
India 'on course' for the Moon
04 Apr 03  |  South Asia
India and China face off in space
10 Jan 03  |  Science/Nature
India joins space elite
18 Apr 01  |  South Asia


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