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Fri, Feb 27, 2004

Update: At Least Six Dead in Indian Space Center Fire

Investigation Continues Into Deadly Accident

The investigation continues into a deadly accident affecting India's space program earlier this week. At least six people were killed and three injured in a fire in India's main space center Monday, an official said. The fire broke out in the fuel testing area of the center in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, said the official.

"A test motor caught fire while being transported and as a result the building caught fire. The fire is now more or less under control," said the space center official, who did not wish to be named. The spaceport, the launching center of the country's satellite-bearing rockets, is located on Sriharikota island, 60 miles north of the southern city of Madras.

The major fire accident occurred on a Segment of a Test Rocket Motor at the Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant (SPROB) at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-SHAR), Sriharikota, in the afternoon. It claimed the lives of six persons including an engineer, three technicians and two assistants and caused burn injuries to three persons.

The work at the time of fire accident was the final operations of removing the fixtures after the satisfactory conclusion of propellant curing of a segment of a motor holding around 14.5 tones of solid propellant, which is a composite of Ammonium Perchlorate Oxidizer, atomized aluminum powder as fuel and Hydroxy Terminated Polybutadiene as binder. In the afternoon, the crew had satisfactorily concluded the removal of mandrel, which is one of the critical operations. At around 3.15 p.m. the crew were attending to the removal of the bottom plate of a propellant casting assembly. During this procedure, the propellant in the segment inadvertently caught fire and caused the subsequent damage.

Three members of the nine-member team were able to escape from the building with burn injuries, while six others who could not escape from the building were rapidly asphyxiated. The building suffered extensive damage due to intense heat.

A high power Committee has been appointed under the Chairmanship of Shri R Aravamudan to identify the events that led to the accident, the extent of damage, and the corrective actions required for the future.

FMI: www.isro.org/rep2003/Webpgs/pg5.htm

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