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Accident Damages NASA Atlas Rocket; Satellite Grounded

July 14, 1987|United Press International

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA's last Atlas-Centaur rocket was "extensively" damaged Monday in a costly launch pad mishap that destroyed a $4-million fuel tank and grounded a military satellite indefinitely, officials said.

Four General Dynamics Space Division workers were treated for minor injuries at the scene.

The $78-million, two-stage Atlas-Centaur rocket had been scheduled for launch in the fall to ferry an $83-million military communications satellite into orbit.

But during work Monday at launch pad 36-B, a work platform somehow hit the side of the unfueled $12-million Centaur second stage, rupturing the rocket's liquid hydrogen fuel tank.

Launch was put on hold indefinitely, and NASA officials said an accident investigation panel would be named to look into the incident.

The rocket is NASA's last Atlas-Centaur in a program that stretches back to the early 1960s. The agency decided to phase out the workhorse rockets and other unmanned launchers when the decision was made in the 1970s to rely on the space shuttle as the nation's premier launcher.

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