Space debris recently fallen in Australia likely belongs to SpaceX

The SpaceX Dragon Capsule carried four astronauts to the ISS in November 2020.

The SpaceX Dragon Capsule carried four astronauts to the ISS in November 2020.
Photo: Nasa

Pieces of debris found on Australian farmland are believed to have originated of a SpaceX mission launched nearly two years ago. It seems likely that the parts belong to SpaceXbut the private space company has yet to acknowledge the fallen remains.

The Australian Space Agency is currently investigating apparent space junk that crashed into the Snowy Mountains in southern New South Wales, The Guardian reported. Three large pieces of burnt debris were found between July 14 and July 25, one resembling an alien monument planted in the middle of the grassy field.

Experts on the ground identified the discarded parts as belonging to a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that carried four astronauts to the International Space Station in November 2020, marking the company’s first crewed mission to the orbiting space station. The spacecraft then re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on July 9, forming a trail of fire in the morning sky over Australia that was capture by users on social networks.

“This is part of the trunk of a Crew Dragon (which is jettisoned before the Dragon capsule returns to earth and has no propulsion system)”, Marco Langbroek, professor of astrodynamics and space missions at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands, wrote on Twitter. The trunk, according to Langbroek, is a “4 x 4 meter [13 x 13 feet] hollow shell with fins” weighing several hundred pounds. SpaceX did not confirm whether this space junk belonged to the company and did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Monaro Police have taken possession of the items. “We think it may be associated with SpaceX, but we won’t confirm that until we get their acknowledgment,” said Superintendent John Klepczarek, Monaro Police District Commander. Told ABC South East NSW.

The Crew Dragon is made up of several components, including its removable trunk.

The Crew Dragon is made up of several components, including its removable trunk.
Drawing: SpaceX

The Crew Dragon chest is hidden under the spatialship and he carries the cargo, and also powers the spacecraft’s ascent through space through attached solar panels. The trunk remains attached to the Dragon until it is about to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, at which time it detaches from the reusable spacecraft. As the Dragon lands on Earth, the trunk must re-enter the atmosphere on its own, resulting in an uncontrolled re-entry.

With a growing private space industry and growing space ambitions for countries like China, falling spacecraft parts are about to happen more frequently. Pieces of a Chinese rocket fell over parts of Indonesia and Malaysia last weekend after its core stage fell back to Earth on July 30. Although these space debris incidents have not yet cause the victimsa new study suggests there is a increased likelihood that space debris could injure or harm a person on Earth. With that in mind, companies like SpaceX need to consider where their rockets land, or at least admit it when they land near populated areas.

After: Suspected Chinese rocket debris falls on three Indian villages

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