Alcantara Launch Center

Alcantara launch site, Brazil

IKONOS satellite image of the Alcantara launch site taken on Sep 5, 2001. At lower right is the launch pad destroyed by an explosion in 2003. © Space Imaging.

Alcantara is Brazil's launch center, located in a jungle setting on the Atlantic coast near Sao Luis, in the northeastern state of Maranhaoat, at coordinates 2° 17' S, 44° 23' W. Being close to the equator it can launch satellites into orbits with inclinations of 2° to 100°. The site became operational on Aug 19, 1994. Pads are set up for the Sonda 3/4 sounding rockets, meteorological rockets, and other science launchers, and for Brazil's indigenous VLS booster.


On Aug 23, 2003 a VLS exploded days before its scheduled launch, killing 21 people and injuring more than a dozen others. The explosion destroyed the VLS-1 V-03 rocket designed to carry two satellites into orbit. One of the four main boosters on the rocket ignited, causing a massive explosion that sent a thick plume of smoke in the air over the Alcantara Launch Center.