http://www.spacer.com/images/brazil-vsl-bg.jpg [not image]
Brazilian Rocket Destroyed In Flight
Rio De Janeiro (AFP) December 11, 1999 - Brazil's space program suffered a major setback Saturday, when a Brazilian-made rocket veered off course and had to be destroyed just 200 seconds after lift-off.
Brazil had hoped its Satellite Launch Vehicle (VLS-1) would make it one of the few nations capable of using its own rockets to put satellites in orbit.
The VLS-1 successfully lifted off from a base in Alcantara, in the northern state of Maranhao, and completed the first of four launch sequences as planned.
But then Brazilian scientists discovered fatal flaws in the rocket's engines and had to destroy it, along with the scientific satellite it was carrying.
"The motors were not responding as hoped, and so the vehicle went completely off course, so the flight safety system destroyed the rocket 200 seconds into the mission," said Marcio Barbosa, director of Brazil's National Institute of Space Research (INPE).
Saturday's failure was the second for Brazil's budding space program. In November 1997, an earlier incarnation of the VLS-1 carrying a small scientific satellite had to be destroyed after it, too, flew out of control shortly after lift-off.
But Barbosa told the Globonews television network that the space program would continue, and expected another launch effort in 2001.
The first step, he said, would be "to conduct a complete evaluation in order to discover why we had this problem in the second phase of the operation."
He expected to have the evaluation's first findings in 30 days.
"The budget is there, and our scientists' research will continue as planned. Few countries have mastered this extremely sophisticated technology, and we want to ensure Brazil's autonomy in this area," Barbosa said.
The VLS-1 rocket cost some 3.5 million dollars, and the SACI-2 satellite cost about 800,000 dollars, according to Brazilian authorities. But Brazil's Aerospace Technical Center (CTA) has poured 240 million dollars over nine years into developing the rocket system.
Brigadier Tiago Ribeiro, head of the CTA, emphasized that actual lift-off was still a success and seemed completely calm after the rocket was destroyed.
"The VLS-1 was perfect during the launch and all of the first phase," he said, adding that video recordings of the rocket would help scientists understand what went wrong in the second phase.
The 19-meter (62-feet) tall rocket was designed to carry 41 tonnes of fuel and up to 350 kilos (770 pounds) of cargo.
Brazil has already put its own satellites into orbit, using other countries' rockets. On October 15, China's Long March 2 rocket put the CBERS-1 and the SACI-1 into orbit, but engineers on the ground were never able to establish contact with the SACI-1, which is still spinning around the Earth.
Copyright 1999 AFP.