SCIENCE + TECHNOLOGY

Likely debris from a SpaceX capsule found in Australia

Aug 5, 2022, 5:00 AM
Potential Space X debris found in Australia....
Two Australian farmers discovered debris from a Space X craft on their land. Officials at the Australian Space Agency confirmed the debris found in the Snowy Mountains in southern New South Wales belongs to a craft built by Elon Musk’s firm. (Brad Tucker/Cover Images)
(Brad Tucker/Cover Images)
Originally Published: 03 AUG 22 17:42 ET
Updated: 03 AUG 22 17:44 ET
 

SpaceX did not return a request for comment, and typically does not interact with news media.

Utah Angles:

Local media reports said at least three pieces of debris have been recovered in the mountain range near Australia’s southernmost tip, and according to NASA’s statement, SpaceX confirmed it is likely to be a part of the Dragon’s trunk. The trunk provides electricity and other necessary services to the main capsule during its time in orbit but is discarded as the main capsule slices back through the thick upper atmosphere on its way home.

SpaceX operates two types of Dragon spacecraft: one that is designed solely for shuttling food, research and other supplies to the International Space Station, and another, called Crew Dragon, that’s designed for carrying astronauts. The scraps of the Dragon trunk found in Australia were likely part of a the spacecraft that carried four astronauts home from the ISS on May 2, 2021, according to NASA.

The Crew-1 astronauts — comprised of NASA’s Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan’s space agency — made a safe return aboard the main portion of the capsule, which splashed down off the coast of Florida before being hauled to safety by nearby recovery ships last year.

Australian media reported that the debris was initially identified by experts with the Australian Space Agency. The agency could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

NASA referred further questions to the Federal Aviation Administration, which licenses and oversees commercial spaceflight operations in the United States. The FAA then referred questions to the US State Department, which could not immediately respond to a request comment.

Members of the public that believe they may have found a piece of space debris can reach out to SpaceX’s recovery hotline at 1-866-623-0234 or at recovery@spacex.com.

Typically, discarded pieces of space hardware fall to a watery grave in the ocean. But they do sometimes turn up on land.

Last year, for example, what was believed to be a piece of a SpaceX rocket’s second stage — which powers the rocket after the lower first stage expends all its fuel — washed up on a farm in Washington state.

SpaceX does not attempt to recover the second stage of its rockets, though it does land, refurbish and refly most of its first-stage rocket boosters, which are the largest part of the rocket and give the initial boost at liftoff. Dragon capsules ride to orbit sitting atop the rockets.

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