Unmanned rocket explodes after liftoff
Residents stay inside awhile to avoid smoke
January 17, 1997
Web posted at: 4:15 p.m. EST
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) -- An unmanned Delta II rocket
carrying a $40 million U.S. Air Force navigational satellite
blew up 13 seconds after liftoff Friday morning, Air Force
officials said. No injuries were reported.
(1.5M/36 sec. QuickTime movie)
The rocket was to launch a "new generation of satellites for
the U.S. Air Force." However, Air Force officials say the
rocket self-destructed about 11 a.m. EST after "an anomaly"
occurred about 10 seconds into the flight.
When the $55 million Delta rocket exploded, an Air Force
officer announced over a loudspeaker: "Take cover immediately
from falling debris. I'll say again: Take cover immediately
from falling debris."
The rocket was carrying the first in a new generation of
Global Positioning System satellites that can enable people
to pinpoint time to within a millionth of a second, speed to
a fraction of a mile per hour and location to within a few
People warned to stay indoors
Sheriff's deputies warned nearby residents to stay indoors
until early afternoon with their windows closed and air
conditioning systems shut off as a precaution against smoke
from the explosion.
The Air Force said the smoke wasn't toxic, but an official at
the Brevard County Emergency Operations Center said vapors
could be irritating to humans and pets.
Residents said the blast could be felt as far away as 25
miles. There were reports that store windows 10 miles away
were broken by the explosion.
The Air Force said parts of the rocket fell into a cleared
safety area in the Atlantic Ocean; other fragments fell onto
Air Force property, causing a small brush fire.
Air Force officials said the satellite system was a
significant improvement over previous designs that required a
specific launch window for each orbital position.
The first GPS satellite was launched in 1978. This was the
first time a Delta rocket has blown up in more than a decade.
The rocket is made by McDonnell Douglas Corp.
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