From correspondents in Brasilia, Brazil
AFP - December 13, 2010 10:30AM
BRAZIL today successfully launched a midsized unmanned rocket into space, with hundreds of kilograms in cargo and experiments in tow, space officials said.
Scientists from the Agencia Espacial Brasilena (AEB) said the VSB-3 rocket took off from the Alcantara Launch Centre in northeast Brazil, reaching an altitude of some 242km.
Officials said the rocket, designed by Brazilian and German scientists, carried some 400kg in cargo, as well as various micro-gravity experiments for several academic institutions.
The rocket soared for about 18 minutes before splashing down some 233km off Brazil's Atlantic coast, where it was retrieved by the air force and marines.
Brazil aims to join China and Russia as a top emerging economy with its own space program.
The launch is seen as a major accomplishment for a program that has faced setbacks and tragedy over the years - including an August 2003 rocket accident at Alcantara that killed 21 Brazilian technicians and engineers.