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updated 2/23/2004 12:08:21 PM ET 2004-02-23T17:08:21

An explosion and fire in a research facility at India’s main space center Monday killed at least six people and seriously injured three others, police said.

Flames erupted at the solid propellant fuel plant at the government’s Dhawan Space Center, on Sriharikota Island, just off India’s southeastern coast, the center’s spokesman, K. Ravindran, told The Associated Press.

Firefighters later contained the blaze, which was under investigation, said Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization.

Six people died in the fire, according to police officials in the Nellore district in coastal Andhra Pradesh state, speaking on condition of anonymity. Nair said the death toll could be four to six.

He said there was no immediate setback to the space program.

“As of now, this will not affect any of our immediate projects,” Nair said. “One of our test motors has been damaged. We are trying to assess the extent of damage.”

The island is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Madras, also known as Chennai, the largest city in the region.

The space center has been used to launch several Indian, German, Korean and Belgian satellites.

The center processes solid propellants used in satellites, conducts ground tests, and has launch pads for rockets.

India has been increasingly involved in space exploration recently, and top officials have vowed to put an Indian astronaut on the moon.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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