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S Could Static be to Blame for Brazilian Rocket Explosion?
Steve Fowler, Fowler Associates
August 24, 2003

The causes of the rocket explosion in Brazil are not known as yet. This reminds us of the Cape Kennedy Thor Delta explosion on August 25th, 1965 at 15:15
where several engineers were killed when the rocket's third stage was prematurely ignited due to a static charge and an ESD event through the igniter squib.

Friday, August 22, 2003: Alcantra base, Brazil - Rocket Explodes, Killing 21 People

A VLS-1 rocket exploded on its launch pad Friday during tests 3 days before liftoff, killing 21 people and injuring 20 others.

The blast in northeastern Brazil destroyed two valuable research satellites and delivered a terrible blow to Brazil's new space program. Brazil was trying to be the first Latin American nation to put a satellite in orbit.

The explosion occurred after one of the four main motors of the VLS-1 VO3 rocket accidentally ignited for reasons still unknown. Each of these solid fuel motors are ignited by two mortar shell igniters. The investigation into what caused the accident was expected to take 90 days.

A rocket launched in November 1997 crashed in the Atlantic Ocean after suffering engine problems shortly after blast off.

In December 1999, another Brazilian rocket developed problems and failed three minutes after takeoff. Officials remotely destroyed the rocket.

We in the ESD industry know the dangers of static and explosive devices. This explosion is still an unknown for now.