HISTORY OF SPACE AND LAUNCH DEBRIS RECOVERIES
by PAUL D. MALEY
LAST UPDATED ON May 20, 2020
SPACE DEBRIS PAGE: 2004 TO THE PRESENT TIME
There are some times money-making opportunities for enterprising individuals who come across space debris. Here someone put up a sign charging for photographing a 10 x 4 meter size piece of SpaceX debris that washed ashore off the island of Scilly in the UK Nov. 27, 2015.
The content of this and all related space debris pages on this web site is intended for educational use only. We compile reports, accounts and illustration of factual events in the history of the space debris discipline the purpose of which is to inform. Space debris is defined as objects which made it to orbit and which eventually fell to Earth. But, this page also includes “launch debris” which did not make it into space but which fell through the atmosphere and generally floated in ocean currents and discovered at a later time. Many of the items listed herein have been published elsewhere. When that happens a “source” is shown that identifies the credit. This includes news items and photographs of specific subjects.
Message to readers: if you are aware of any other unique space debris falls where photos are available, kindly email me such reference information. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of each event to the extent possible. On this page, where internet sources are listed, it is likely that after a while some of these links will no longer work. Unfortunately that is a consequence of such references. Please notify me of errors/omissions and corrections within this page to me by email:
Space debris can fall anywhere!
The reentry of ATV-4 as seen from the International Space Station Nov 2, 2013.
The final (nondestructive) reentry of the Space Shuttle (STS-135) as seen from the International Space Station on July 21, 2011.
Space debris might be defined as material orbiting the Earth that has outlived its useful lifetime. We employ this term to cover a) satellites that have become inactive, b) discarded rocket bodies, c) small pieces of material jettisoned or having flaked off spacecraft, d) small objects that are the results of collisions or explosions in space, or e) portions of payload fairings and other material that fall off an ascending rocket on its way into space. Some very old satellites have been known to ‘shed’ small pieces decades after they were launched into space. In addition to documenting cases where debris was located on Earth, we also include cases of ‘debris’ sites on the Moon and Mars.
NOT SPACE or LAUNCH DEBRIS
Sometimes what seems to pass for space or launch debris is actually something else.
A rocket that fell in Jordan on March 17, 2017–not space debris but part of continuing ground conflict in the Middle East between various parties. Courtesy Mohammad Odeh.
This pressure tank about 2 feet in length was found next to a curb in a small town in Saudi Arabia in August 2016 after a missile had been fired from Yemen.
In the images below, parts of an inertial measurement unit were found in the remnants of an old building in Wisconsin in early 2010 and were initially thought to be pieces of a rocket. Upon closer inspection there are no burn marks. Although the unit was embedded partly into the earth, there is no direct evidence indicating that it reentered the atmosphere. A more recent case involved a 2013 release of information related to a 1978 reported debris find in New Zealand: Throughout the 1970s, Canterbury was showered with space junk – some thought to be real; others proven to be fake. Metal balls found scattered on paddocks from Lake Aviemore to south of Ashburton in 1972 are widely thought to be of Soviet origin. In October 1978, two other pieces of space junk made headlines after they were found on the Eiffelton property of John Lovett. It was revealed that three of his friends found some old aluminum fish floats, scorched them with a welding torch and dumped them in his paddock. Documents released by US public records agency MuckRock shows the lengths New Zealand scientists had to go through to reach that conclusion. Communications from 1978 between the State Department and the US embassy in Wellington show the fishing floats went through radiation testing and were examined by scientists at the then Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). According to a message the embassy sent to the State Department in November 1978, an Ashburton milkman reported an object flying through the sky on October 23. “John Lovett claims to have been in the paddock on October 22 and is certain the fragment, which was prominently located, was not in the paddock at that time.” A second message from the embassy said it was “suspect” that the ball landed only eight kilometers south of where the 1972 balls landed. “DSIR’s advice … that the sphere was a silicon-aluminum alloy with a melting point of less than 600 degrees caused doubt that a space object with such a low melting point could survive re-entry … even if shielded,” it said. “The discovery of a second sphere on November 5, however, seems to increase the likelihood that the objects are indeed space fragments … “‘ Scientists thought “magnetic globules” on the surface of the balls were molten steel. Later that month, they were found to be welded fishing floats. One of the 1972 “real” space balls is now in the Ashburton Aviation Museum. Curator Jim Chivers said the US documents were a fascinating insight into the then government’s interest. “The finding of the balls created a great deal of interest from the United States, with much informational data and photographs being requested by their space agency.” He said the level of interest from the US government was never known because all its information was classified “secret and confidential”.
Image of Inspector E.M. Connor holding the fake ball found near Ashburton in 1972
“It appears from some of these no longer secret documents that it took quite some work before the hoax balls proved to be just that.” He said the perpetrators would have been pleased with their efforts. “Had they known that as well as convincing John Lovett that he had found a spaceball, they almost fooled the American space agency as well … They would have been very pleased,” he said.
Other hoaxes have been attempted such as with a spherical ball similar to the one below. Although this one quite obviously is not a pressurized sphere that is easily mistaken for space debris (it is a welded fishing float that looks similar to a helium pressure tank), others have been.
Paul Maley with a metallic sphere that is actually a float. Found in Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati May 11, 2013.
During the week of December 10, 2010 the first Dragon capsule was launched into space with a wheel of Le Brouere cheese as a payload. It could only be hoped that such an object may survive reentry in the future and be recovered as “space debris”.
REPORTING A REENTRY SIGHTING
A reentering spacecraft is similar to that of a meteor or small asteroid body with some notable differences. Many reports by local people, regardless of the country of origin, appear on YouTube or other public information source without basic critical pieces of information. The photo below is similar to what may be seen during a spectacular reentry.
A Russian SL4 rocket engages in a destructive reentry (where the rocket is basically destroyed by interaction with the Earth’s atmosphere) over Colorado January 4, 2007
While reentry of a spacecraft or piece of space debris can be quite startling and bright, it is possible that a piece or pieces of debris could survive this fiery process and be recovered. Space debris crashing into the ground may sometimes do damage to buildings, vehicles and other structures. The impacts of a large object disintegrating into a number of smaller ones may pose more of a threat to an urban environment depending on the mass of each fragment and whether there is any potentially explosive or toxic material surviving. It is usually the large mass and velocity that would pose a threat to people or animals. But the rarity of such death or injury is such as to be miniscule based on the entire history of past reentries since the beginning of the space age in 1957. The general public will likely not be able to tell the difference between a satellite reentry and that of a meteor. But the tell tale signs are there. A satellite will generally (but not always) be travelling from the north, or northwest, or west, or southwest or south toward the opposing direction. The process will result in an initial slow appearance of a single bright object which will gradually break up into a number of fiery objects of varying brightness, some disappearing quickly with others surviving a lot longer. News media may sometimes have advance knowledge and may publicize the possible reentry. The case of Cosmos 1220 on February 16, 2013 was one of those situations where this very large satellite was predicted to break up somewhere over the ocean. Instead its reentry was visible from a number of locations in Saudi Arabia. Within hours a number of separate videos from towns such as Mecca, Madina, Taif, Jiddah, and Hai’l. Some witnesses said it was moving from North to South. In order to gather critical information that might aid in finding and recovering a piece of space debris, the following is needed from each observing location:
a. latitude and longitude of observer as derived from GPS or Google Earth
b. time (converted to GMT) of the observation; a description of how this time was obtained. For example, using a watch with a second hand, a clock on the wall, a calibrated time source.
c. direction of motion from beginning to end. It is important to know how the directions were obtained: using buildings as a reference, street layout, knowledge of the constellations, or guess work.
d. name(s) and email/phone of reporting observer(s)
e. description of what was seen including the presence of any sounds e. video or time exposure photographs; information about the key reference points seen in the video such as structures, mountains, etc. from which directions can later be obtained.
f. astronomical experience (if any) of the reporting observer g. degree of certainty or uncertainty in any of the information above In most situations, it will not be possible to find any recoverable pieces. It is only in those exceptional cases where there are many reports along the entire reentry track as well as luck where one or more pieces may be found. Usually such debris is found within hours of its fall and only because someone was nearby and found it. Space debris usually has a dozen or more fragments appearing along the trail, some appearing, then disappearing, others lasting along the entire flight path. The train of fragments may extend across the entire sky or vanish after 20 or 30 degrees. It depends on the location of the observer with respect to the reentry path. The amount of time spent in the sky could be from 20 seconds to 90 seconds, but this is just a guideline. Sonic booms are rarely heard. For investigators with the skill, ability, resources and time to hunt for objects, the more reports with accurate details will enable the likelihood of recovery to occur. This is the same process that meteorite hunters might use to recover debris. Fireballs that appear in the sky that are not space debris may come from any direction in the sky. Their speed is usually (but not always) faster than the slow moving train of space debris. They may break up into two or more noticeable fragments which travel in similar directions.
The duration of such entries last anywhere from a second or two to perhaps 15 seconds. A smoke train may or may not be left in the sky and rarely a sonic boom might be heard. To whom do you report the sighting? First go to this site: http://srop.falakcenter.com/ and using the FAQ, determine if it was a reentry or perhaps something else. If you think it was a reentry, then please submit a report through this site. Posting videos on YouTube is one location. Generally someone with knowledge will spot this posting. Otherwise you should attempt to contact a local representative from perhaps a planetarium, observatory or astronomical society. Local news media may also be helpful in publicizing photos or accounts that could be noticed by responsible scientific bodies. Accuracy in reporting the above mentioned details is critical to helping determine the nature of what was seen and to eliminate other possibilities.
The term “reentry” is a misnomer. It implies that an object has entered an atmosphere, survived and is now entering again. Almost every satellite that encounters the atmosphere (unless it is designed to resist the heating of reentry) will either be partly or completely destroyed and will certainly not reenter. An exception has been the Space Shuttle or other human-operated craft. Another is a capsule that is engineered to land via parachute or other system that returns samples. Forces and heating during the process are such that man-made objects will have a hard time surviving the length of time, peak heating temperatures, and pressures involved in the high velocity encounter. When part of a satellite does survive it can take many unexpected forms, the most varied may be that of the Space Shuttle COLUMBIA which broke up about 40 miles above the earth’s surface in February 2003. All kinds of mechanical and electrical components, pieces of paper, clothes and even some human body parts were recovered; many were in ‘recognizable condition’. Other pieces or suspected pieces of debris may take a familiar form such as a metallic sphere. In Many instances space debris will have no markings. Tabloids are known to sensationalize some debris falls such as in the image below.
Magazine cover “The mystery of the spheres”.
Accounts listed here are dated sometimes based on when I received the information or when documented and may not reflect the actual/estimated fall or recovery dates.
May 4 and 16, 2020 RUSSIAN LAUNCH DEBRIS FOUND IN ST. LUCIA
Several pieces of what appears to be launch debris washed up on the island of St. Lucia and were found on this day. The location: 14° 1’7.89″N 60°53’24.40”W on Petit Anse Beach according to Christopher Kessell who found this and brought it to my attention. Photos below are from the May 16 find.
Photos here are from the May 4 larger debris find also by Christopher Kessell. It is described as carbon fiber skins with an aluminium honeycomb core. Very lightweight and strong.
Source: Personal email 5/20/20 from Christopher Kessell
May 11, 2020 CHINESE LONG MARCH 5B CORE STAGE DEBRIS FOUND IN IVORY COAST
Pieces of the core stage of the Long March 5B rocket crashed near N’guinou, Ivory Coast on March 11. A house was reportedly damaged in the fall of the 19.6 ton stage. This is part of the same rocket that launched a crew test capsule 6 days earlier. Pieces of it fell across the country. The piece on the left is reported to be 12m in length while the piece on the right resembles a section of race track located on the side of the Long March 5B rocket assembly image. One piece was recovered near the village of Mahounou.
Two separate metal pieces recovered from the fall
Source 1: https://twitter.com/planet4589
Source 2: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathanocallaghan/2020/05/12/parts-of-a-chinese-rocket-may-have-fallen-on-an-african-village/#174383de65a2
April 28, 2020 CHINESE LONG MARCH ROCKET DEBRIS FOUND IN GUAM
A 3-meter wide piece of a Long March 3B rocket reportedly landed on the island of Guam. Video was taken showing the debris falling through the atmosphere at night. The rocket failed to deliver an Indonesian communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit. The honeycomb structure is allegedly part of the rocket’s first or second stage. Since the first and second stages use dinitrogen tetroxide and UDMH, the wreckage found on Guam is said to possibly carcinogenic.
April 22, 2020 IRAN QASED FIRST STAGE DEBRIS
Debris from the successful Noor 1 satellite rocket launch is found in southeast Iran. This is reported to be pieces from the first stage of the Qased rocket.
March 9, 2020 CHINESE LONG MARCH ROCKET DEBRIS
Another Long March 3B rocket dropped booster debris onto a rural area but did not cause damage or casualties. A 2.24m rocket piece was spotted sticking up from the ground and smoking. This was one of the side boosters from the three stage rocket that successfully put three satellites into orbit. The booster appears to have been found in Guizhou province. It is reported that advance notices are given to residents in potential drop zones to evacuate and also not to approach any debris upon returning to their homes. It is further reported that should debris destroy a house, the owner will get a new house as a replacement for free and some level of compensation.
February 9, 2020 IRAN SATELLITE LAUNCH DEBRIS
The Zafar communications satellite was placed aboard a Simorgh rocket which failed to eject the satellite at the proper speed. Apparently debris from this launch landed on the ground near Zahedan city in southeast Iran. There were sounds heard and then debris fell to the ground.
Metal shard possibly from the launch vehicle.
Source 1: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/iran-to-launch-satellite-on-sunday-u-s-says-program-linked-to-missiles-program-1.8507878
Source 2: https://tinyurl.com/ve7zxy7
Source 3: post from Pouria Nazemi Feb. 9, 2020
January 11, 2020 SOYUZ VS22 LAUNCH DEBRIS
This was first reported to be the remains of a Soviet Union spacecraft launched more than 38 years ago that was found washed up on the beach a few miles north of San Pedro Town, Belize. Images posted on social media by island resident David Campos shows several large metal pieces from the spacecraft marked with Russian lettering. Based on the identifying marks, the remnants were initially believed to be from the Soyuz 40, which was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on May 14, 1981. However after some digging it was learned that it was from an April 2019 launch of Soyuz VS22 from French Guiana.
Note the numbers on the launch vehicle compared with those found on the debris in the final image above.
Source 1: https://www.reddit.com/r/space/comments/enj88u/debris_from_soyuz_vs22_washed_up_in_front_of_our/
Source 2: https://www.sanpedrosun.com/community-and-society/2020/01/11/launched-decades-ago-the-remains-of-a-soviet-union-spacecraft-wash-ashore-on-ambergris-caye/
December 2, 2019 INDIA ROCKET DEBRIS
The case of a strap-on motor of an Indian Space Research Organization launch vehicle found in the sea near the Puducherry coast in India. Scores of curious onlookers came to the Vambakeerapalayam area in the Puducherry town limits to see it. ISRO identified it as a spent strap on motor XL variant of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle launched from Sriharikota. The cylindrical object with the inscription PSOM XL in bright red color and measures 30 ft long and 3 ft in diameter. A fisherman and three others went fishing about 4am local time and caught soemthing so heavy in their net they had to request help from two other teams of fisherman. They were able to get it close to shore where a giant machine operator drug it onshore.
November 22, 2019 CHINESE LONG MARCH 3B ROCKET DEBRIS
Debris from a Long March 3B rocket that carried two Beidou navigation satellites landed on a village in rural China. Because the launch sites are located well inland rather than on the coastline booster pieces from the three stage rocket fell onto a village downrange from the Xichang launch site.
Source 1: https://www.space.com/chinese-rocket-launch-drops-debris-on-homes.html
Source 2: https://t.co/vY0CEN4CFY
July 25, 2019 CHINESE ROCKET DEBRIS
No detailed information was provided from this post by China Daily on Twitter.
May 1, 2019 CHINESE ROCKET DEBRIS
Debris from a rocket is reported to have fallen on Shanyang county in Shaanxi province near a motorway. Nearby residents heard a loud bang and spotted an object falling to the ground. A second object that appeared to be a rocket engine was found in neighboring Hubei province. (second image).
April 20, 2019 CHINESE LONG MARCH 3 ROCKET DEBRIS
Debris from a Long March 3 rocket landed in a stream near a farm in China.
December 8, 2018 CHINESE CHANG’E 4 ROCKET DEBRIS
“A large amount of debris from the Chang’e 4 rocket was found at 4 am on December 8 in Tongren city, Southwest China’s Guizhou province, after the rocket’s successful launch. A jagged chunk of metal was found in a forest in Wangping village. The large piece of metal, measuring over 10 meters long, was confirmed to be part of the Chang’e rocket by the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC). Niu Zhenhua, deputy commander of the Guizhou Observation Station XSLC said that the debris has now been recycled by XSLC. Recovery crews will cut some of the larger pieces down for better preservation and further research.”
October 16, 2018 SPACE-X DEBRIS
A large sheet of metal found on a North Carolina beach has been identified as debris from a SpaceX rocket. The National Park Service told The Charlotte Observer that Elon Musk’s rocket building company confirmed the 10-foot by 6-foot debris found Sunday was “rocket hardware.” Chief Ranger Boone Vandzura of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore says “it’s being handled appropriately.”
This isn’t the first time chunks of a SpaceX rocket has been found on an Outer Banks beach. Last October, a 15-foot long section of a jettisoned nose cone was found near Hatteras Village. With Sunday’s Ocracoke Island find, the type of rocket and its launch date wasn’t released.
October 13, 2018 CHINESE LONG MARCH 3B ROCKET DEBRIS
Two Beidou satellites were successfully placed into orbit after the October 13 liftoff of a Long March 3B vehicle. However, as usual, debris dropped onto the mainland.
October 13, 2018 Iridium pressurant tank, California
A pressurant tank from Iridium 70 spacecraft which reentered October 11, 2018 was located on a ranch 2 days later. The owner of the ranch near Hanford spotted the big chunk of metal in his walnut orchard on Oct. 13 and alerted local authorities.
The purpose of the tank was to store fuel used to change the orbit of the satellite in space. The tank could be positively identified due to governmental agencies tracking space debris, the Kings County Sheriff’s Office said.
Iridium told local officials the tank is of special interest because it is the first piece recovered from an Iridium satellite re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, so it will be closely examined. Most low-Earth orbit satellites end up burning up in the atmosphere or landing in the ocean.
The tank was turned over to an employee of Iridium who journeyed Wednesday to Hanford from Tempe, Arizona to retrieve it.
Source 1: https://www.foxnews.com/science/mysterious-space-object-that-landed-on-california-ranch-identified
Source 2: https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article220259570.html
Source 3: http://www.mylemooreleader.com/159828
October 11, 2018 SOYUZ M-10 DEBRIS
A side booster to the failed Soyuz M-10 launch was recovered nearly intact in the Kazakhstan desert. Interestingly the boosters are not usually recovered after a nominal Soyuz launch, and it’s not unheard of for locals to cut them up and sell them for scrap. The image below shows the booster as it was recovered.
October 4, 2018
September 9, 2018 SPACEX DEBRIS FOUND OFF GEORGIA COAST
SpaceX, the commercial aerospace and space travel company founded by Elon Musk, confirmed Wednesday that rocket debris found last month on a Cumberland Island National Seashore beach came from one of its rockets. “SpaceX worked with the local authorities to recover the piece of hardware,” SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson wrote in an email.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources senior wildlife biologist Clay George discovered the space debris Sept. 9 while on Cumberland to examine a dead dolphin. Unsure what he’d found, he sent photos to others in the department and at Cumberland Island National Seashore.
The approximately 20-foot-long piece appeared to be part of the rocket’s fairing, the protective nose cone that surrounds a payload. It’s designed to detach over the ocean after a launch. SpaceX launched 10 Falcon 9 rockets from Florida this year before September. Gleeson said SpaceX works to recover its rocket boosters and spacecraft.
April 16, 2018 SPACEX DRAGON NOSE CONE, FRANCE
What appears to be the nose cone from a SpaceX rocket washed up on a beach in Brittany. The following is the description:
“It is a surprising discovery that we make the managers of the farm of Quéménès located in Brittany on the island of Iroise. While strolling on the beach, they came across a two-and-a-half-meter diameter dome that would belong to the Space X rocket when the sea was at low tide, according to Huffington Post. On photos shared on social networks by the Breton farm, we can read the inscription: “SpaceX”.
While the farmers have contacted the agency directly, they explain that they have not yet received any answers from them. It took them four days to move the space debris that is now placed close to their home.
On Twitter, the astronomer Jonathan McDowell thinks it is the nose of the Dragon capsule that is used to refuel the International Space Station. The shape and diameter of the object may suggest that it is indeed this element of the capsule. The Space site recalls that the nose of the capsule is ejected as soon as the vehicle has left the atmosphere.”
June 27, 2018 CHINESE ROCKET DEBRIS
The spent first stage of a rocket fell on a town in Guizhou Province shortly after launch of a pair of Chinese satellites from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. It was not clear from which launch this occurred.
Source 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERTQFDPC558
Source 2: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5895501/Debris-Chinese-rocket-bursts-flames-crashing-village.html
April 4, 2018 POSSIBLE ARIANE LAUNCH DEBRIS, MEXICO
Tourists Jennifer and Richard Jaeger spent some time in Mahahual, Mexico in early April 2018 and came across what appears to be an exterior fairing from an Ariane rocket. Their location was 8km south of Mahahual and along the ocean current path from French Guiana where Ariane rockets are sent into space. Coordinates are 18°39’20.0″N 87°43’35.5″W
The Jaegers note that this object washed up on the beach 1-2km south of a different account of Ariane launch debris on this web page shown below on January 31, 2013. Images shared to me are:
Possible launch debris photos taken by Jennifer Schuster Jaeger.
Photo of the front side by Ben Jaeger.
The object is described as follows: “The aluminum honeycomb is 1 1/8 inch thick sandwiched between two carbon fiber layers with a white composite outer shell. Foam insulation seemed to have been fabric covered though most of that was gone. One edge of the piece appeared to be a plastic or composite seal attached with stainless pins going not around the circumference but longitudinally along the piece. As of this past week, that piece of space debris is currently being used as a wind block wall in someone’s yard. ” It is important to know that the object appeared on the beach April 4 but was not there the previous day.
Source: personal emails from Jennifer Schuster Jaeger, Richard Jaeger and Ben Jaeger April 9-10, 2018.
February 12, 2018 CHINESE ROCKET DEBRIS
Rocket booster debris fell in Guangxi village after the CZ-5B launch. Beidou satellites were launched from Xichang during this mission.
One large piece landed on the side of a building while another crashed on the top of another one.
January 27, 2018 FREGAT UPPER STAGE, PERU
The Zenit upper stage from the Russian FREGAT launch reentered over Peru and a pressurant tank survived reentry and was found by locals. The object was observed as ‘tearing through the skies of the state of Acre and fell in an isolated area between Acre and the region of Pucallpa. The images below are typical of pressurant tanks associated with the Zenit. The object recovered weighted 40kg and was estimated to be 1.05m high and 2.7m in diameter (though from the images these are likely both not accurate). A crater located next to the object was 30cm deep and 29cm in diameter.
Source 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llxoArXZpmY&feature=youtu.be
January 11, 2018 LONG MARCH 3B BOOSTER, XIANGDU, CHINA
Long March booster burns on the ground
“A booster from a Chinese Long March 3B rocket launch dropped from the sky and exploded near buildings in Guangxi, southwest China on Friday, shocking locals and onlookers.The Long March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province at 07:18 local time on Friday, carrying two Beidou-3 GNSS satellites. Minutes after launch as the rocket flew downrange, four strap-on boosters separated from the core, with one dropping near the town of Xiangdu in Tiandeng Country, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, around 700 kilometres from the launch site. With Tiandeng county being within the designated drop zones for debris for the launch, some locals were evidently ready to capture footage in the case that discarded rocket boosters fell from the sky.
The powerful Long March 3B rocket, used to carry satellites to medium and geosynchronous Earth orbits, is almost 55 metres long, with a diameter of 3.35 metres on the core stage. The launcher has a mass at liftoff of 458,970 kg, or just over 1 million pounds. The four 2.25 m diameter, 15 m long strap-on boosters are filled with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) hypergolic propellant, which is highly toxic. The booster did not hit any people or buildings, but the still burning wreckage will have posed a serious health hazard to locals who approached to film the debris, as seen below.”
January 12, 2018 SpaceX DEBRIS, USA
A piece of debris from a recent SpaceX launch washed up on Myrtle Beach, S.C. There were no detailed descriptions
Photo from Horry County Police Dept.
January 15, 2018 CHINESE LONG MARCH DEBRIS
A portion of a Long March 3B rocket crashed into a small town in China. It fell and exploded in a town near Xiangdu 435 miles from the launch site at Xichang.
October 8, 2017 SPACEX DEBRIS, HATTERAS VILLAGE, N.C., USA
A piece of SpaceX debris washed ashore. The description is as follows:
“It’s white, about 15 feet long and maybe 10 feet wide, made of metal and synthetic material. The rounded piece had a serial number on it and appears broken off something else. It did not have many barnacles on the surface, indicating it had not been in the water long.”
Photo from E. Everlee
March 2, 2017 ARIANE ROCKET DEBRIS
“Debris that washed ashore along the south Texas coast has been identified as part of a rocket, according to law enforcement. A police officer made the discovery last week while investigating a report of possible airplane or boat debris found at a Brazoria County beach. The large rectangular object is believed to be from a rocket launched from South America last month. The Freeport Police Department notified the U.S. Coast Guard, NASA, Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. State Department, after locating the mysterious piece of flotsam.
“It clearly did not burn up on reentry, landed in the ocean, and floated all the way here to Freeport,” the department posted on Facebook. “It is not dangerous, except for the smell of dying barnacles that called it home for the past two weeks.”
An Arianespace news release confirmed the commercial space transportation company successfully launched its Ariane 5 rocket on February 14 from its spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Two satellites were placed in geostationary orbit for AT&T/DIRECTV and Telkom Indonesia.
The Freeport Police Department said the owner of the rocket part will retrieve the debris at a later date.
December 25, 2016 POSSIBLE COPV LANDS IN WISCONSIN, USA
An object that appears to be similar to a COPV crashed into the back end of a white van sitting on a street in north Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 20. A loud thump was heard but no other sonic phenomena or visual observations were noted in the area.
The object fell into snow and does not appear to have significant damage to it. The van was grazed by the impact. No precise correlation with space debris is known as of this writing.
December 12, 2016 CHINESE FENGYUN 4A WEATHER SATELLITE LAUNCH DEBRIS
It was reported by China News that two pieces of payload fairing from China’s weekend launch of its new generational Fengyun-4A meteorological satellite have been recovered in Jiangxi Province. This was not a launch failure and the debris was expected to fall.
The successful launch of Fengyun 4A was China’s 20th orbital mission of the year, lifting off on a Long March 3B from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre shortly after midnight local time on Sunday and heading east. The two pieces of fairing were found later on Sunday in the same county in Jiangxi, falling in uninhabited areas close to Yuanxi village near Zuo’an Town, and Nanping village near the town of Tanghu.
December 5, 2016 PROGRESS DEBRIS LANDS IN RUSSIA
Authorities in Russia’s Siberian region of Tuva on Monday were examining several pieces of the Progress cargo spaceship found after it crashed last week having failed to reach orbit. Two pieces, including a large spherical object, were found by herders over the weekend, while another was discovered in the courtyard of a residential house on Monday, said the region’s head Sholban Karaa-ool, warning people not to touch any metal debris. Regional sanitation officials “inspected the spot where two pieces of the spacecraft were found in the Ulug-Khem district, on the side of the mountain and near a yurt,” Kara-ool said on his official website.
The unmanned cargo ship Progress MS-04 launched Thursday with over 2.5 tonnes of food, water and equipment for the International Space Station, but ground control in Russia’s Roscosmos space agency lost control several minutes into the flight.
The agency is currently investigating the reasons behind the crash, which could have been caused by an engine failure on the third-stage rocket, according to sources in the industry cited by Russian media.
November 2, 2016 COPV FROM ESA AVUM ROCKET LANDS IN INDIA
A composite overwrapped pressure vessel was found in Dindigul, India in late morning according to press accounts. The usual police, fire fighting and bomb squad were called in and in a video you can see officials cutting the overwrap revealing a dented metal component. No injuries or damage was reported. The part appears to be from the Vega rocket first stage.
Source 1: https://www.reddit.com/r/Arianespace/comments/5b12nd/avum_upper_stage_from_first_vega_launch_decayed/
Source 2: https://imgur.com/a/54p3Q
October 19, 2016 SOYUZ ROCKET BOOSTER RECOVERED IN RUSSIA
Soyuz MS-02 was launched on October 19 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, along with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough who are still aboard the space station as members of the Expedition 50 crew. As the Soyuz FG rocket climbed to orbit, its side-mounted boosters and first stage dropped off and fell back to Earth, to the steppe of Kazakhstan. There an entrepeneur ventured to the site and was able to cut metal from the booster to crowdfund watches made from this metal.
October 10, 2016 LONG MARCH 11 ROCKET STAGE FOUND IN MYANMAR
A large metal object has fallen from the sky into a jade mining area in north Myanmar, state media said. The cylindrical object, found on Thursday in Kachin state, is 4.5m (15ft)
long and 1.2m wide. Another piece of metal with Chinese writing on it tore through the roof of a nearby house at about the same time, but no injuries were reported.
It is believed to be from a Long March rocket launched the same day. A loud bang, then smoke as local residents reported hearing a sound before the object landed.
Officials from the local Defense Service said that it landed in a jade min and then bounced 150ft (50m)settling in a muddy area of the mine, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.
“We were all afraid of that explosion,” villager Ko Maung Myo told the Myanmar Times. “Initially, we thought it was a battle. The explosion made our houses shake. We saw the smoke from our village.” He said that the air near the object smelled acrid.
Source 1: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37946718
Source 2: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/mandalay-upper-myanmar/23626-unidentified-falling-object-in-hpakant.html
Source 3: http://sattrackcam.blogspot.nl/2016/11/chinese-cz-11-2nd-stage-impacts-myanmar.html
Source 4: https://strangesounds.org/2016/11/mysterious-space-debris-myanmar-burma-video-falls-from-the-sky-jade-mine.html
September 26, 2016 COPV FROM FALCON 9 ROCKET LANDS IN INDONESIA
An apparent composite overwrapped pressure vessel was found on Madura island around 10pm local time. In the photo below you can see a cylinder 150cm long and 60cm in diameter with two rounded ends.
Pressure vessel found on Madura island.
Landing next to a cowshed in the village of Sumenep there were no casualties as a result of the fall. The object is believed associated with NORAD catalog 41730–a Falcon 9 rocket body upper stage. A second object was found October 8 as the image below by traditional fishermen who found this object in the sea area of Gili Island, Sumenep. It is also believed to be part of the Falcon 9 rocket.
Source 1: https://ekliptika.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/roket-falcon-9-full-thrust-penerbangan-28-jatuh-di-pulau-madura/
Source 2: http://satobs.org/seesat/Sep-2016/0203.html
Source 3: https://indonesiaindiary.blogspot.com/2016/10/part-of-spacex-falcon-9-rocket-down-tocowshed-sumenep.html
May 3, 2016 SOYUZ LAUNCH DEBRIS
“Four liquid-fueled rocket boosters dropped in Siberia by a Soyuz launcher speeding into orbit last week from a new Russian cosmodrome have been located and recovered, Russia’s space agency said. The four boosters separated from the Soyuz rocket’s core, or second stage, about two minutes after liftoff April 28 from Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome, located in the far eastern Amur region near the Chinese border. One of the Soyuz-2.1a rocket’s four first stage boosters landed several hundred miles north of the Vostochny Cosmodrome after last week’s launch and was recovered by search crews.
April 25, 2016 PRESSURE SPHERE LANDS IN SPAIN
“Over the past several months, the tiny area has been the site of three space junk attacks, which initially added some excitement to the depressed region. When the first object fell, La Opinión de Murcia reporter Enrique Soler said that “the response of the population was mainly curiosity; everyone was wondering where it came from.” A few days later, local farmers and shepherds discovered two more objects, and the area was put under quarantine. These round objects measured around 25 inches in diameter — about the size of a yoga ball — and weighed around 44 pounds.
Soon enough, curiosity transitioned to concern, Soler said. “When the second one, however, fell half a mile from Calasparra [a village of around 10,000 people] people were worried because the craters left by the objects were very big.” Locals “saw an undetermined number of objects that looked like fire balls falling from the sky,” Soler told ATI. Fortunately, nobody has been hurt by these objects. In Murcia, the local government actually wants to exhibit these objects, which are thought to be spare fuel tanks from a space ship or rocket. The three “balls” found so far are not the only items space has thrust at Spain: Other metal objects have been discovered on farms across southern Spain, and have normally been thought to be falling pieces of regular aircrafts. ”
SEE ACCOUNT BELOW FROM NOVEMBER 3, 2015.
February 6, 2016 CHINESE LONG MARCH 3C ROCKET DEBRIS
Beidou 3 third generation navigation satellites were launched on February 6. Spectacular photos were captured in Panxian County, about 370 Kilometers downrange from the launch site, where the boosters impacted. The photos, published via the Chinese social media service Weibo, show the aftermath of the booster’s return to Earth in the form of a very large cloud of residual, unburnt propellant released upon impact of the boosters. The orange-brown color is caused by Nitrogen Tetroxide, used as oxidizer on the boosters, first and second stage of the Long March 3C rocket.
January 25, 2016 JAPANESE ROCKET DEBRIS
“Tanyapat Patthikongpan, head of Pak Phanang district on Thailand’s east coast, said a large piece of curved metal washed ashore. “Villagers found the wreckage, measuring about two metres wide and three metres long [6.6 x 9.8 feet],” Patthikongpan said. Thai media speculated that the debris could belong to MH370, which would be the second time a piece of the plane has been found after a fragment of the aircraft’s wing appeared on the French island of Reunion in July 2015.
Japanese rocket maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has said that the metal piece is highly likely to be part of a Japanese H-IIA or H-IIB rocket that was launched from southern Japan, based on an initial examination of photos and videos of the object.” It is believed to be part of a payload fairing from an H-II rocket.
Source 1: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2016/01/rocket-debris-mistaken-for-mh370-wreckage/
Source 2: https://spacenews.com/beached-rocket-debris-mistaken-for-missing-airliner/
January 1, 2016 PRESSURE SPHERES LAND IN VIETNAM
“Authorities in northern Vietnam remained stumped about a pair of “space balls” that fell from the sky this weekend. At around 6am last Saturday morning, a metal sphere 80 centimeters in diameter struck northern Tuyen Quang province, landing in a remote area near a stream, reports Thanh Nien.
“The sky was clear,” one witness told Thanh Nien. “Suddenly, we heard a thunder-like noise.”
November 29, 2015 SPACE-X FAIRING DISCOVERY IN THE UK
A large chunk of an American space rocket has been found in the sea off the Isles of Scilly. The section of the spacecraft, measuring about 10m (32ft) by 4m (13ft), was spotted on the surface between Bryher and Tresco. Coastguards believe it is from the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 which exploded after take-off in Florida in June. However many astronomers believe it is from a different mission due to the size and markings. Local boatmen towed the section to Tresco where it has now been removed from the beach.
Joseph Thomas, from Tresco Boat Services, found the section of rocket while travelling around the north end of the island. He said: “There were lots of gulls on the water and I thought initially it was a dead whale and the birds were feeding off it.” Mr Thomas found the debris, which was “covered in goose barnacles”, at about 14:00 GMT on Thursday about 100m (328ft) from the shore. “I didn’t know what it was. We tried to drag it ashore using a hook, but it bent it. “First thoughts were that it was part of a plane, but then we scraped the barnacles off and we saw it was part of a rocket. “It’s not every day part of a rocket washes ashore at home. It was too heavy for us to tow.”
Coastguards issued a warning to shipping in the area after the discovery. Spokesman Martin Leslie said: “The markings show an American flag. It looks like it’s an American rocket and seems most likely to be the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 which blew up shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral in June “We’re grateful for all those who helped in its recovery, it was a great example of the community working together.” That rocket, which broke up shortly after take-off and landed in the sea about 4,100 miles from the Isles of Scilly, was in the process of sending a cargo ship to the International Space Station. However Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said many experts believed, due to the size and markings which have now been revealed, it was from a different mission. “All the geeks have been getting together and looking at fine details, and we’re pretty sure it’s a launch from September 2014 that successfully sent a cargo mission to the space station. “It didn’t look like an exploded rocket to me, it looked like a fairly normal piece of space junk when the lower stage of a rocket falls from a hundred miles up and hits the ocean. Large sections can remain in tact and it’s really quite normal,” he said.
Islander Pete Hicks, who towed the debris to shore, tweeted: “Towed in and beached a piece of flotsam earlier. Thoughts were could be aviation parts ..didnt imagine space race.”
McDowell concluded that “Comparison of exact position of logo markings, position of access panels, and reported identification of serial numbers show is definitely not CRS-7 failure and is almost certainly successful Sep 2014 CRS-4 launch.”
Source 1: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cornwall-34941462 November 27, 2015
Source 2: http://www.scillytoday.com/2015/11/27/part-of-rocket-found-off-tresco/
November 4, 2015 CHINESE ROCKET DEBRIS
Toxic debris from a rocket booster that was part of China’s latest satellite launch has landed near two villages in the southwestern province of Guizhou. The debris was from the Long March 3B rocket that blasted off from the Xichang launch centre in Sichuan province, and successfully put the Zhongxing-2C military communications satellite into orbit earlier on November 3. The booster and first stage rocket parts rained down between the villages of Baini in Yuqing county and Maxi in Shibing county in Guizhou.
November 3, 2015 POSSIBLE ATLAS V-CENTAUR PRESSURE SPHERES
Seven or eight fireballs were seen in Spain on the morning of Nov. 3. Work by T. Molczan found this account: “”We saw a group of fireballs. There were seven or eight.” It is what the two Calasparra neighbors emphatically claim could supposedly clarify the causes that have located two alleged space spheres in the same week, and within distances of only 12 kilometers. The first was found by two shepherds, last Tuesday [Nov 3] in
the area of ??Los Llanos Cagitán Mula. That day, these neighbors were walking, like every morning, by Las Cumbres, when, at 7 am, these alleged balls wrapped in flames “passed over us. We have not ever seen anything like it.”
They could observe them in the sky just seven seconds. «We felt a little afraid, because we didn’t know what they could be or where they fell.» After losing sight of them they heard a roar. «They fell on the Cagitán and adjacent areas,» detail these calasparrenos, who don’t want to reveal their identities by the media frenzy shaking the town these days.”
One of at least two pressure spheres is shown above. The identity of the originating spacecraft is uncertain as of Dec. 6 but may be related to the decay of 1980-10B, an Atlas-Centaur rocket body. Additional images extracted from Spanish media are below. [In addition, a fireball smoke train was also photographed in daylight which is symptomatic of aluminum disintegration previously witnessed by this author.]
The results of an analysis by T.Molczan shows the following objects were recovered and related to the reentry:
|Object||Date Found||Location||Approx. co-ordinates||Dimensions||Mass|
|Sphere 1||2015 Nov 03||Los Llanos del Cagitán (Murcia)||65 cm dia. (205 cm circumference)||15-20 kg|
|Large object||2015 Nov 07||near Pozorrubio de Santiago (Cuenca)||3 m||20 kg|
|Sphere 2||2015 Nov 08||Villa Vieja (Murcia)||80 cm dia.||?|
|Metal Strip||2015 Nov 10||Las Barrancadas (Alicante)||4 m X 0.2 m||?|
|Sphere 3||2015 Nov 15||near Sierra del Molino (Murcia)||64 cm dia. (200 cm circumference)||15 kg|
The object referred to as sphere 1 is shown here:
Sphere 2 is seen below:
Sphere 3 is in the next image:
and the metal strip is shown below:
Source 1: http://www.laverdad.es/murcia/201511/10/podemos-saber-tiene-origen-20151110004915-v.html
Source 2: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=38774.msg1442630#msg1442630
Source 3: Ted Molczan via Seesat-l <seesat-l_at_satobs.org> Date: Sat, 14 Nov 2015 03:26:06 -0500
Source 4: 20 minutos
Source 5: Voces de Cuenca
Source 6: Assombrado.com.br
Source 7: La Opinion de Murcia
The three spheres were 23kg in weight and had a 65cm diameter. A more complete analysis of the reentry and discovery of these and other objects can be found at: http://www.satobs.org/reentry/2008-010B/2008-010B.html
Source 1: http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2015/11/12/actualidad/1447324841_687930.html
Source 2: http://www.lagranepoca.com/ciencia-y-tecnologia/36825-las-tres-esferas-de-murcia-podrian-proceder-de-un-cohete-atlas-v.html
October 18, 2015 CHINESE ROCKET DEBRIS
Debris from the Apstar-9 satellite launch fell into southeastern China. Residents of Yuanxi village in the province of Jiangxi found a gleaming white sheet of metal on a hillside not far from their residences. The piece, measuring about 10.3 meters long and 4.5 meters across, had broken off the rocket that launched the APSTAR-9 satellite from Xichang in Sichuan province. The debris had severed the electricity supply in the area but otherwise had not caused any damage.
Source 1: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/1869141/farmers-southeastern-china-wake-find-chunk-satellite-lodged
Source 2: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/peoplesdaily/article-3301958/Yuanxi-problem-Massive-chunks-rocket-debris-fall-sky-smash-Chinese-village.html
October 8, 2015 CHINESE ROCKET DEBRIS
China’s launch of its Yaogan Weixing-27 satellite almost had tragic consequences for a man in Hongjun Village in Shaanxi Province. Around ten minutes after liftoff of the remote sensing satellite from the Taiyuan satellite launch center in Shanxi province, what appears to be an engine from the first stage of the Long March 4C rocket smashed through the roof of a home. The images show a room destroyed by the engine, having entered through the roof of the farmer’s house near Ankang city. No-one was injured by falling rocket debris, and local security officials were soon on the scene.
September 30, 2015 CHINESE ROCKET DEBRIS
A piece of debris crashed into a car in mainland China. It is reported to be from the first stage of a CZ-3B rocket that launched Beidou satellites. The crashed location is in Zurong town in Guangxi province.
July 27, 2015 CHINESE CZ-3B ROCKET DEBRIS
This rocket launched two Beidou satellites and pieces of debris landed (as is the norm) near rural villages where people examine an engine.
May 29, 2015 SPACE-X ROCKET LAUNCH DEBRISA piece of a fairing from an apparent Space-X rocket launch with a S/N of 15 has been linked to the Deep Space Climate Observatory launch on Feb. 11, 2015. It washed up in the Bahamas on Elbow Cay on Great Abaco Island. This location is about 400km southeast of Cape Canaveral. Three business executives who were on vacation in the Bahamas came across one of the two fairings that protect the payload. The fairings are supposed to separate about 4 minutes after liftoff. Attached was a GO PRO camera shown below; the fairings in place on the launch pad are seen in the next image.
Source 1: https://twitter.com/kpe/status/604418558181785600
Source 2: http://www.collectspace.com/ubb/Forum14/HTML/001305.html
Source 3: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/pga9dk/what-its-like-to-find-a-spacex-rocket-washed-up-on-a-tropical-beach
A similar story appeared a few days later and it is not clear if the two are connected:
Local surfer, Tim Albury, found something unexpected while surfing offshore at Elbow Cay on May 30; space debris from a rocket that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean just miles north of Elbow Cay.With the help of Troy Pritchard of Hope Town Volunteer Fire and Rescue the debris was towed onto shore where a representative from SpaceX was able to retrieve the Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing and the data recorder.
“I actually thought it was pretty cool. The SpaceX engineers were very eager to find this piece because it still had data recorders on it that had a lot of info on them,” he said. He said that engineer, Joe Bussenger, travelled to Hope Town and took full responsibility for their debris and having it cleaned up. He said he also had a call that another piece was on Island Marines boat ramp, and after checking it out found it was also theirs, but from a previous launch.
Source 4: http://www.theabaconian.com/2015/06/12/spacex-wreckage-found-by-surfer-off-elbow-cay/
December 31, 2014 CHINESE LONG MARCH 3A ROCKET DEBRIS
The expended first stage of a Long March 3A rocket tumbled into a forested region of southwestern China a few minutes after successfully blasting off Dec. 31 with a Chinese weather satellite, and photographers were there to capture the booster’s fall back to Earth, according to Chinese state media. The images released on the website of the state-owned China News Service show the rocket’s descent and crumpled debris along a rural roadside near Fuquan, a small city in southwestern China’s Guizhou province. The crash site more than 300 miles east of the rocket’s launch pad at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
December 28, 2014 FALCON 9 ROCKET BODY 2014-52B After a flash in the sky, a roar, a scare and many doubts remained in Santa Rita do Pardo, 266 km from Campo Grande. In the city of seven thousand inhabitants, fireballs were seen this morning. Then three consecutive bangs and an object, like a big truck tank, fell in the yard of Santa Maria. “It was 3 am and seven fireballs came from heaven,” says Marcelo Gulart, 44, supermarket owner in the city.
The farm owner’s friend, Marcelo says that the piece is 1.46 meters tall, 56cm in diameter, and weighs 30kg/66lb. Carbonized, it fell 50 meters from Francisco Souza Dantas house, age 69. Early on Sunday, the place turned into a tourist attraction and pilgrimage point of curiousity to the mayor. With so much movement, Francisco is considering closing the gates. The lights were seen in the sky by residents of several cities such as Campo Grande, Antonio João and South Fatima, and similar reports in Paraná and Paraguay.
A number of videos were posted and they show the classic space debris reentry of a sizable piece of space junk, as opposed to a meteor.The photos here appear to show an intact carbon overwrapped pressure vessel. Joseph Remis correlates this with the Falcon 9 Rocket Body from the 2014-52 launch. The object fell 15m from a house. It appeared to still have pressurant inside it. A second object was found near Andradina, about 160km east of where the first object was found.
It is described as 20cm in diameter, 8cm in height, weighing 3kg/6.6 lb. It apparently hit a nearby roof as evidenced by the next image.
On January 9, 2015 another object similar to the first one was discovered 30km away on a farm. The image is shown below.
Source 1: http://www.campograndenews.com.br/cidades/interior/apos-chuva-de-luzes-objeto-gigante-cai-do-ceu-e-vira-atracao-em-chacara
Source 2: http://www.diarioweb.com.br/novoportal/Noticias/Geral/226521,,Suposto+OVNI+teria+caido+na+zona+rural+de+Andradina.aspx
Source 3: http://dahorabataguassu.com.br/noticia/objeto-nao-identificado-que-caiu-em-santa-rita-do-pardo-nao-contem-radiacao/7612
August 22, 2014 SPACEX DEBRIS
“On Aug 22, 2014, we were at the Texas facility and I filmed the final F9R test flight (the footage is part of the SpaceX post). We started the day with a fun DQ binger, and as we drove out to the launch site, I joked about the big bada boom to come. Not sure why. It was the first flight with three engines going, and a lot more fuel than prior flights. It arched over and something was clearly wrong. Then BOOM! I suggested to Elon (Musk) that we should go out to the debris field for post-flight analysis… and artifact collecting! Someone tried to cheer Elon up with a quote about learning coming from life’s failures. Elon replied: “Given the options, I prefer to learn from success.”
An apparent titanium sphere from the 3rd stage of a Soyuz rocket launched 7/8/14
A man who believes he found a piece of space junk from the Russian rocket which spectacularly re-entered the atmosphere over Australia put it up for sale for $100,000. Last week’s fireball known as Object 40077 was the third stage of a Soyuz rocket which was launched from Kazakhstan on July 8. It plummeted to Earth at 29,000 kilometres per hour on Thursday night. Many people reported seeing a bright object travelling east to north about 9:45pm on Thursday. The man, known only as Peter, said he found the globe-shaped object just north of Walgett in New South Wales on Sunday. He believes the object is a fuel cell from a Russian rocket. He posted the object for sale on Gumtree but the ad has since been removed.
Seller “Peter” believes the object is a fuel cell made of titanium and he hopes to get $100,000 for it. In the advertisement, Peter said the object was found on the Castlereagh Highway, under the Pagan Creek bridge. He said it was made of titanium, 40 centimetres in diameter and weighed 13.4 kilograms. “One of the valves is completely burnt off and has left some spectacular flow lines of melting titanium as it re-entered earth’s atmosphere,” Peter said in the Gumtree advertisement. “The second valve is still partially intact.” The seller did not claim it definitely came from the space junk sighted over Australia last week but said “it certainly appears that way”.
May 18, 2014 PROTON ROCKET DEBRIS
“Residents in the Heilongjiang province in China reported seeing three UFOs darting across the sky and apparently one of them came crashing down into in a man’s vegetable garden. According to Chinanews.com, villagers in Mengchang saw three objects falling from the sky this morning. Soon after they heard a “huge piercing sound,” and a huge ball of flame came crashing down into the vegetable garden of one of the villagers.
Images of 3 of the fragments
What they found in the garden looks straight out of a science-fiction movie. It appears to be a large metal ball covered by a layer of jagged material. According to China Radio International, China Central Television news is reporting the object to be about 2 and a half feet wide and weighing nearly 90 pounds. Residual nitrogen gas was found inside one object.
Altogether, eight of these unidentified objects fell in the city of Qiqihar. State-run media outlets reported that one of the balls was a little over 2 feet in diameter and weighed about 90 pounds. Locals saw the fiery balls falling.
Closer image of the strange object that crashed into a man’s vegetable garden in Heilongjiang, China. (Credit: Chinanews.com)
The area has been secured and an investigation is underway. Villagers have taken pictures of the object, which remains unidentified. Chinanews.com has suggested that the object could be related to the failure of a Russian rocket at about the same time. The rocket launch was at 3:42 am local time in Kazakhstan, which is 5:42 am in Beijing. The rocket failed 540 seconds into the flight at an altitude of nearly 100 miles. The Proton-M rocket was carrying an advanced satellite. However, the head of the Russian national space agency, Roscosmos, told Russia Today the rocket and cargo burned up in the atmosphere and should not have caused any damage on the ground. The Heilongjiang province is a long distance from Kazakhstan, but the timing is coincidental.
April 14, 2014: ARIANE ROCKET DEBRIS
A fairing from an Ariane rocket fell in Brazil. The following is a news account:
A fisherman in Brazil’s Amazon region has found a large piece of debris from a European space launch.
The man said he found the metal object floating on a remote river in the municipality of Salinopolis. The debris has been confirmed as coming from a satellite launched from the Kourou base, in neighbouring French Guiana, last July. The piece bears the logo of the UK Space Agency and Arianespace – the European satellite company. A spokeswoman for the UK Space Agency, Julia Short, confirmed that the debris was from the launch of Europe’s largest telecommunications satellite last year.
“It is the launch vehicle payload shroud from the Alphasat launch last year. It probably landed in the Atlantic and then floated inland,”
Alphasat, described as Europe’s most sophisticated telecommunications satellite, was launched from the Kourou base on 25 July. Brazilian authorities in northern Para state said they would contact the UK Space Agency and ask them to collect the object.
According to local reports, it took more than 10 people to retrieve the panel from the riverbank. “It is big, the size of a car,” local resident Gilson dos Santos told O Globo.
Residents have been told to report immediately any symptoms of illness, but rescue teams do not believe the wreckage is radioactive. The local fisherman who came across the unusual catch – 73-year-old Manuel Alves dos Santos – said the authorities initially did not believe him.
“It hit my fishing line and I pushed to the bank of the river to see what it was. It is the first time I see something like that,” he told O Liberal newspaper. The object was found on Saturday night, but according to residents the authorities failed to respond to their initial calls.
Recovery teams only arrived in the area after the finding was reported in the media.
April 10, 2014: CHINESE ROCKET DEBRIS
On April 10, rocket carrier “Chang Zheng-3A ” (Long March 3A) debris – launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan – crashed in Tianlin, Guangxi. A Long March 3A rocket carried the satellite Beidou-2 into space. Local people saw a fireball through the fog falling in the fields. Images were taken by Xinhua’s reporter Luo Xiao and Guang She.
December 3, 2013: CHINESE ROCKET DEBRIS
What appears to be debris from the Jack Rabbit launch fell and wrecked a couple of houses. A resident told the Xiaoxiang Morning Post: “Three of the roof beams have crashed down on our house, and a big hole has been punched into our barn.” Another said: “The huge sound scared the living daylights out of me.” Authorities paid around £1,100 in compensation to those affected. Worryingly this is not the first time it has happened. The county has been hit by debris nearly 20 times since the 1990s. The unmanned Chang’3 3 lander and the Yutu rover lifted off atop a Long March 3D rocket early on December 2. 2013, local time, from the Xichang launch centre in Sichuan province.
July 15, 2013: DELTA ROCKET DEBRIS
“Three unidentified objects, which resemble rockets, have been discovered in different parts of the country this week after they fell with blasts. Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said that on Sunday last week, villagers in Mulota Village 4 resettlement near Old Trauma Centre Zimplats Mine, Battlefields, heard a strange blast that was followed by a bang near their village. She said the next day, one of the villagers, Mr Sylvester Manika discovered an unidentified object in the bush and alerted other villagers. The matter was reported to Battlefields Police Station. “Police attended the scene and noted that the unidentified object, which resembles a rocket and is made of metal and aluminium material, is three metres long and has a diameter of 1,8 metres,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba. “Police also discovered that the bolts used to fasten the objects are inscribed NAS 13004-41CS.”
Objects were identified July 31, 2013 by Jonathan McDowell as part of the Symphonie 2 rocket launched on a Delta 2 vehicle. Launched August 27, 1975.
June 10, 2013 CHINESE LONG MARCH 2F DEBRIS
A Long March 2F rocket carrying crew to the Chinese space station was successfully launched. Pieces of debris from the Shenzhou 10 launch were found in the Bardain Jaran desert and are believed to be part of the escape tower.
May 4, 2013: ARIANE DEBRIS
“The mysterious discovery made on Trinidad’s south coast on Saturday, may be debris from a rocket ship or satellite. The debris likely came from a space-craft that lifted off in French Guiana on the east coast of South America. Director General of the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority Ramesh Lutchmedial said this was the report he received from the authority’s inspectors who visited the site and examined the debris. Lutchmedial said : ‘Rockets from the French-based firm Arianespace are launched in French Guiana. Stages of rockets would jettison into the ocean and they are washed ashore sometimes. Ever so often a piece washes ashore. And it is not from an aircraft, it is one of the stages that the aircraft goes through’. Penal Police said they were contacted by a lifeguard who made the discovery while jogging along the beach near Morne Diablo. ‘It is not harmful to the public in any way. I must commend the public for their civic mindedness to call the authorities which is something that we encourage. That when someone sees something that has fallen off an aircraft they call us and we can investigate’, said Lutchmedial. According to the website www.space.com, the Ariane 5 rocket, blasted off from French Guiana around dusk on February 7 carrying telecommunications satellites for two different clients. Debris from the booster rockets that detach during launch, have washed up on the coast of Trinidad and Barbados in the past.”
February, 2013: APOLLO 11 ROCKET ENGINE
An engine with the serial number 2044 was found by a search team lying on the ocean floor. The engine number correlates directly with the F1 engine used by the Apollo 11 Saturn rocket to launch that spacecraft toward the Moon. That launch occured on July 11, 1969 and was the first spaceflight that landed humans on the Moon.
Engine number photo courtesy Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center
Source 1: https://www.wired.com/2013/07/bezos-apollo-11/
Source 2: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/mar/20/saturn-v-rocket-engines-recovered-jeff-bezos
February, 2013: PRESSURE SPHERES OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN
A titanium pressure sphere was found by Dean Gentz in Buna, TX USA on or before February 20, 2013. The sphere was spotted on his property near an oak tree and was sitting in place for some unknown period of time before it was noticed; therefore, the precise date of its appearance is not known. Due to the condition of the soil, there were numerous holes in the ground and there was no way to tell if it had landed and then rolled to its discovered location.
The sphere at its discovery location by Dean Gentz is shown in the above image.
The sphere is similar in size, diameter, and circumference to that of the Namibia sphere of November 2011 described below, thus leading to the suggestion that it might be Russian in manufacture. There was no visual sighting of any kind. Mr. Gentz conducted a metallurgical analysis and determined the following composition: 91.25% titanium, 4.7% vanadium oxide, 2.05% silicon, .098% iron, .015% zinc, .013% molybdenum.
Sphere overview photo by Dean Gentz
The composition is consistent with titanium 6-4 based on the PMI (Powder Metallurgy International) machine analysis. Weight of the sphere was found to be 16 lb (7.3 kg) and the circumference was 43.25 inches (17.02 cm), diameter 13.75 inches (5.41cm). Photos of the Buna sphere show details of apparent ablation, burn marks, and pitting. There is a plug at both ends. The one shown above is melted. The photo above shows what appears to be a hexagonal nut with small safety wire holes. There are also what seems to be the numbers “413” engraved on the side. The image above shows the seam around the periphery of the sphere. All photos taken by Dean Gentz. The mystery surrounding this sphere became even more complex when a second sphere was discovered on March 10 about 1 mile (1.6km) from the first sphere.
Buna spheres 1 and 3
Google Earth was used to identify the positions of all the spheres. In the course of this, the GE image was updated to February 28, the day after the decay of a possible reentry debris candidate 2012-021C. Sphere#3 may be that object located in the following image.
Google Earth image possibly showing Sphere#3 and its shadow.
Buna sphere#4 was discovered in woods
Buna spheres 1 and 4
The spheres have these aspects in common: all were found within 2 miles of one another, all are made of titanium, all have a welded equatorial band, all have the same diameter and circumference as well as empty weight, all show ‘signs’ of possible ablation, all (except for sphere#1) show no markings, all have two ‘plugs’ at opposite ends where one plug appears melted, the other is a 6-sided nut that appeared more or less intact. One space debris candidate suggested is the CZ-4B Chinese 3rd stage rocket (2012-21C) which reentered over the area on February 27. However, the discovery date of sphere#1 conflicts with that date. The evidence of space debris is intriguing but circumstantial. As of April 26, the investigation continues.
Google Earth map showing the approximate locations of the 4 Buna, TX spheres.
Partial source: http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Buna-man-thinks-he-found-space-debris-in-his-yard-4385932.php
Paul Maley and spheres 1, 2, and 4 (left to right), in order of their discovery. Sphere 3 was not available at the time.
January 31, 2013: ARIANE PAYLOAD FAIRING
There is uncertainty in the reporting timeline due to the source of the online description being a blog. However, parts of an Ariane rocket payload fairing appear to have been carried by currents to the shores of Mexico where it washed up on the beach” in Mahahual, 400km south of Cancun, Mexico, close to the border with Belize. [See a similar account below November 4, 2009. ] It is about 2cm thick, and several meters long. It appears to have a Kevlar covering over an aluminum body made up of thousands of wafers, like a heat sink.” according to the description.
The full panel view
Apparent location of the panel in the assembly bay and during launch.
The piece was turned over and placed next to a nearby road
Additional identifying markings which may be important in linking specific parts to a launch.
January 6, 2013 ARIANE V ROCKET DEBRIS
Pieces of metal washed ashore on Crane Beach in Barbados. The debris was incorrectly identified as pieces of an Ariane V booster launched on December 19, 2012. “Those sections that were found were components of the covering for the booster rocket which, following the launch, will be separated from the rocket and return to earth and should not normally disintegrate. However on contact with the water on this occasion, this one broke,”
After further investigation it was learned that the identity of the Soyuz ST VS04 launch could be derived from one of the panels as in the next image. A key piece of evidence to linking a piece of Soyuz ST VS04 launch debris is in the lettering. The above letters “de” reveal that this payload fairing was associated with Soyuz ST VS 04 (carrying the Pléiades 1B satellite) launched on December 1, 2012.
The PLEIADES decal being applied in the clean room prior to launch.
The debris as found on the beach by retired Air Canada Pilot, Angelo Lorio
Ministry of Defense lettering
A large section of the fairing
Debris pieces in perspective
Source: Aviation & Aerospace Consultant, www.linkedin.com/pub/captain-don-g-chee-a-tow/15/894/889/ Captain Don G. Chee-A-Tow, Honorary Consul of France to Barbados, Special Representative for Caribbean Affairs at EDU.INT
December 17, 2012 LUNAR CRASH OF ‘EBB’ AND ‘FLOW
Two probes released from the Grail spacecraft orbiting the moon in 2012 were called Ebb and Flow. Ebb and Flow deliberately plunged into a lunar mountain in December after mapping the moon’s gravity field in unprecedented detail. The location was chosen because it was far away from the Apollo landings and other historic sites.
Crash site before (below)
Crash site after (below)
October 2012: PROTON BOOSTER DEBRIS
This piece of debris, found recently in a Rooks County (Kansas) farm field, is a piece of space junk from a Russian rocket. Holding the space junk is Doug Wereb, a former space science educator at the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center in Hutchinson, who said the debris is part of the fourth stage of a Russian proton rocket that was launched Friday, Oct. 13 from Kazakstan. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the show on Friday, Oct. 13, was the fourth stage of a Russian proton rocket launched that day from Kazakstan. And Doug Wereb, an adjunct faculty member at Butler and Cowley County community colleges, says Rush County farmer Craig Rixon found fragments of the Russian rocket. Goddard Space Flight Center’s Networks and Mission Services confirmed the launch and decay of the satellite late Tuesday. Wereb, who is a former space science educator at the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center in Hutchinson, was called on to identify the space junk. Rixon said he saw the pieces in the sky, but didn’t have any idea where they fell until days later. “I was out fixing fence and stumbled across it,” he said. “It was in a place you couldn’t drive with the pickup.” He said the fragments caught his attention because they looked so unusual. “It didn’t look like it should be there,” he said. “I thought it might have been part of what flew over. That was the first thing that crossed my mind.” Rixon called Rush County Sheriff Jack Mendenhall, who had seen the sky light up while at a high school football game in La Crosse. “Everybody in the stadium saw it,” Mendenhall said of the phenomenon that lit up the sky. “Pieces of it flared off to the sides like a Roman candle.” Mendenhall thought it was an aircraft dropping flares, but as it passed overhead, he saw a big smoke trail. “I had no idea what it was,” he said. “What convinced me that it was something burning up was the smoke trail. You could see it burning, and it was bright.” After Mendenhall got Rixon’s call, he shipped the sample to Wereb, who has identified many meteorites, and astronomy teacher Rob Kuhn, director of the McConnell Air Force Base branch of Butler County Community College. Wereb said the largest piece recovered was about a foot-and-a-half long and 8 inches wide. A second piece was 10 inches long and about 6 inches wide. Numerous small fragments were scattered on the ground. Wereb identified the space junk by its appearance and odor. “It looks like a burnt-up rocket casing, it smells like a burnt-up casing, and it was found where one came down,” he said. But, Wereb said, the pieces found in Rush County are just a small part of the 10- by 14-foot rocket. Most of it burned up in the sky, Wereb said.
August 26, 2012 ATLAS V PAYLOAD FARING
“An object washed up on Angle Beach, Southampton, Bermuda on 26 August 2012. It came to the attention of the Bermuda Department of Civil Aviation and has been identified by the Office of Space and Advanced Technology of the Department of State of the United States of America as belonging to the United Launch Alliance. It is believed to be part of a payload fairing from an Atlas V mission conducted on 4 May 2012.
Markings of any kind are always important as illustrated above
The basic dimensions are approximately 84 inches wide and 71 inches tall, with the base of the object being slightly curved. It appears to be made of a honeycomb composite material.”
In a related report sent to me on April 30, 2015, Alex Davidson reported that he came across a part of a fairing at around August 1 or 2, 2012 located 4 miles southwest of Bermuda. The image is shown above and may or may not be directly related to this launch. There are clear markings along the edge of the piece as shown in the image below. Mr. Davidson reports that the part was in fairly good condition with slime but no heavy barnacle growth indicating it had not been in the water for an extended period of time (e.g. years). He had a group of students and had cut his foot on the piece of debris but had the presence of mind to take photos.
Source: personal communication from Alex Davidson, april 30, 2015
August 7, 2012 MARS CURIOSITY ROVER DEBRIS
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity was a bit of a litter bug as it wrapped up its 352-million mile (566-million kilometer) journey early Monday and headed toward a landing inside Gale Crater, an ancient impact basin that is home to a towering mound of sedimentary rock. From a vantage point about 186 miles (300 kilometers) above the planet, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, known by its acronym MRO, surveyed the scene, providing documentation (in case NASA ever faces littering charges) of Curiosity’s discarded heat shield, parachute and sky crane.
Various debris components from the Mars rover mission.
July 7, 2012: AGENA ROCKET PRESSURE SPHERE
I received an account from the 1970s that describes a metal sphere that landed in Sweden. Source: Rolf Arvidsson. Mr. Arvidsson reports: “The metal “ball” was found in the early 1970’s (?) by Forest Officer Poul Neergaard-Petersen (1923-2003) in a remote bog some 5-7 km SW of Torup in south western Sweden. He brought it home and it was placed as a garden decoration. He and his wife Karen thought it was dropped from the bomber streams (RAF and USAAF) on their way to Germany during WW2.
The sphere in the hands of its current owner. R.Arvidsson photo.
In early June 2012 Karen contacted Torkel Fagerström, aviation historian, and he contacted me, Rolf Arvidsson, also an aviation historian
The husband of the nice lady in one of the pictures, … found it some forty years ago. He passed away in 2003, so it will not be possible to have a more exact date. It is still “in safe hands” in Sweden. The perimeter is 133 cm, so the diameter must be 42 cm (133 / 3.14). There is also one line saying: 21.40 LBS. I estimated the weight to approx. 10 kgs, and it corresponds well to the weight in lbs. There is also some small signs of melted metal on the surface. No part of the “ball” is magnetic…There is quite a lot of more writing on the surface, but hard to read. We have tried IR-light without success.“
English text on the sphere. T.Fagerstrom photo.
Given the ablative appearance on parts of the sphere and the writing, the NASA Johnson Space Center Orbital Debris Office suggests that this object is likely a GN2 tank from an Agena rocket stage. Identification with a particular space mission is unknown.
June, 2012: PEGASUS ROCKET DEBRIS
The following is a description of rocket debris found on shore in the Republic of the Marhsall Islands (referred to below as RMI).
A booster rocket from a mid-air launch at Kwajalein in June washed up at Mili Atoll prompting the Marhsall Islands government to seek assistance of the US government in removing the large object. Sea Patrol’s Lomor vessel was dispatched at the weekend to check out the rocket that was found at Jelbon Island, the southernmost part of Mili, according to Internal Affairs Minister Wilbur Heine, who represents Mili and traveled with Lomor to inspect the surprise visitor. “It beached on the ocean side of the island and was discovered by local residents,” Heine said. “The residents radioed Majuro and I contacted Lomor to organize an investigation to confirm what drifted ashore.” The Lomor returned to Majuro Monday. “We sent a diplomatic note to the US Embassy asking them to send a team of experts to determine if the missile presents any harm to the environment, and to remove it,” said Foreign Minister Phillip Muller Tuesday. On Wednesday, in response to an inquiry from the Journal, the US Embassy issued a US Army Kwajalein Atoll statement saying, “it appears to be the ‘stage one’ motor of the Pegasus XL launch vehicle from a test conducted at the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in June 2012.” The stage one motor is a solid rocket booster that propels the Pegasus to about 200,000 feet then burns out and falls as planned into the broad ocean area and normally sinks upon splashdown, said USAKA (US Army Kwajalein Atoll). “As verified from Reagan Test Site monitoring of the mission, the component landed in the predicted drop area in the open ocean approximately 300 miles from Mili Atoll, apparently drifting for some amount of time before coming ashore on Mili Atoll,” the statement said. There have been more than 40 Pegasus launches over the years from various locations including Kwajalein, the Army said. Earlier coordinated environmental reviews determined the Pegasus XL launch does not present a significant impact to human health or the environment, the Army said. The photos of the equipment that washed up in Mili “show that the components worked, all fuel oxidized and there should be no risk to personnel,” the Army said. The Army said it is working with the US Embassy and the RMI government “to develop appropriate response actions.”
A piece of what possibly might be part of a Russian ICBM launched from Baikonour fell on December 27, 2011 near Kuybyshev in Siberia. The debris piece weighed 200kg and was measured as 2m in height; it hit the roof of a house.
An account stated: “Locals insist the metallic object – resembling a large shiny rubbish bin – fell from the skies. The object is six feet long and is at least partially made of titanium steel. It’s now under police guard as interest in the ‘visitor’ intensifies. It was found near a village called Otradnensky some two thousand miles and three time zones east of Moscow. The Russian media immediately claimed ‘fragments of a UFO’ were discovered in the remote forest. Locals had heard strange sounds in the thick woodland in December, it was claimed. But it was only on Sunday that the find was reported to local police who then alerted Moscow. Yuri Bornyakov, head of rescue service department of Kuibyshevski district of Novosibirsk region, said: ‘We measured the radiation level near and inside the object. We found no radiation here.’
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2118280/Russian-space-experts-called-examine-200-kilo-UFO-fragment-fell-sky-Siberia.html February 22, 2012: PRESSURE SPHERE
On February 22, 2012 a spherical object (titanium sphere) fell from the sky this morning in the city of Anapurus-MA Brazil, 28km away from the town of Chapadinha. The fall of the object, so far unidentified occurred around 06:00 this morning in the village wells, property of Mr. “Iron Leg”.
Tree damage from the sphere’s impact
Here is the classic sphere, typical of recovered debris worldwide
A large metallic ball fell out of the sky on a remote grassland in Namibia, prompting baffled authorities to contact NASA and the European space agency. The hollow ball with a circumference of 1.1 metres (43 inches) was found near a village in the north of the country some 750 kilometres (480 miles) from the capital Windhoek, according to police forensics director Paul Ludik. Locals had heard several small explosions a few days beforehand, he said. The sphere fell on Wednesday in a village of Riacho dos Poços in Brazilian Maranhão state. No casualties were reported apart from an unfortunate cashew tree that was severed by the object as it plunged to the ground, according to MR Notícias, a Mata Roma news site. Valdir José Mendes, 46, told police the sphere landed several meters from his house leaving a one-meter-deep hole in the yard. “I heard the noise and I went out to see what caused it. I thought it was a plane that had fallen, or an earthquake,” he said. The noise was such that Mendes was too scared to go outside. However, curiosity got the better of him and he headed outside to find the cashew tree’s trunk snapped in half by a mysterious metal sphere lying in a hole nearby. Some 20 villagers joined Mendes to help him extract the object from the ground and examine it. Mendes says the sphere is hollow and if shaken some sort of liquid can be felt swishing inside. Locals quickly spread the news, as they reached the town of Mata Roma over 2,000 people flocked to see the “UFO”. With a diameter of 35 centimetres (14 inches) and weighing 5.9kg (1.98lb) the ball has a rough surface and appears to consist of “two halves welded together”. It was made of a “metal alloy known to man” and weighed six kilogrammes (13 pounds), said Ludik.
Two images above courtesy http://rt.com/news/sphere-ufo-space-brazil-103/
It was found 18 metres from its landing spot, a hole 33 centimetres deep and 3.8 meters wide.”
The Shenzhou spacecraft carries Chinese astronauts to and from space. The photo below is the reentry capsule after landing. Technically it is space debris once it hits the ground. Shenzou 8 capsule is shown below. Source: http://www.sinodefence.com/space/military/fsw.asp October 21, 2011: SOYUZ ROCKET CASING
The next 3 images found in the Tobago Keys show debris is part of the mechanism that encased a Russian-built Soyuz rocket, which was used to launch two Galileo satellites for the European Space Agency on Oct. 21, from Kourou, French Guiana
Source: Searchlight newspaper Feb.2012.
When investigating what appears to be space debris it is important to photograph identifiable markings as well as the debris itself, being careful to not move any debris from the original fall location(s) until after documentation has occurred. Cell phones can be particularly useful if cameras are not available for documentation.
August 2011: DELTA II DEBRIS RECOVERY IN MONGOLIA
In August of 2011 US Air Force personnel were sent to Mongolia to pick up pieces of a Delta II rocket that crashed there. This account describes the operation: “There was no beeping noise as the pickup truck laden with rocket parts backed up to the C-17 Globemaster III at Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in late August. It was just a Mongolian driver and a U.S. Air Force loadmaster using hand signals to communicate. An Air Force Reserve crew from the 729th Airlift Squadron flew to Mongolia to retrieve debris from a Delta II rocket launch a year earlier. Retrieval was necessary under the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Rescue and Return Treaty of 1968. The 15-person crew included three pilots, four loadmasters, two aerial porters and, just to be safe, a six-person maintenance crew with a pallet of spare parts and equipment for the C-17 Globemaster III, retreived a second-stage fuel tank and two hydrogen sphere, then returned the debris to the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. “ Compare the photos above to those of other Delta II debris in the MSX reentry account earlier.
August 2011: SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA DEBRIS FIND
Eight years after the Columbia disaster during the Texas drought, the lake level in Lake Nacogdoches, Texas dropped such that a new piece of Columbia debris was found. The sphere was one of 18 cryogenic tanks Columbia carried during its 16-day mission. It had been underwater for the past eight and half years, having landed there Feb. 1, 2003, when the shuttle broke up over east Texas during re-entry. It was uncovered recently when the lake’s water level diminished by about 11 feet during an ongoing drought.
August 2011: RUSSIAN ROCKET PANEL
The US Coast Guard reportedly discovered this curved panel in the Tobago Keys in August 2011.
A pressure sphere from a Russian rocket stage was recovered in Wyoming, USA on March 21. The rocket was launched January 20, 2011 associated with the Electro-L mission. Titanium sphere photo by Elizabeth Campbell. It was discovered by Wyoming resident Robert Dunn who reportedly found the tank while still warm to the touch (see next image). Photo by Elizabeth Campbell. The tank was determined to be 30 inches (12cm) in diameter and left a crater about 12 inches (4.8cm) deep and three feet (14.4cm) wide. Robert Dunn poses with the sphere in its resident location. Elizabeth Campbell photo. The condition of the tank appears to be fairly good with a depression on the right lower side. Photo by Michelle Balleck.
Source: Craig Daily Press, Craig CO, April 9, 2011
October 2010: CHANG’E II ROCKET DEBRIS
On October 1 residents of two separate villages in Jiangxi, China, awoke to very large pieces of the lunar probe Chang’e II’s launch rocket falling back to earth around them. Villagers in the area awoke last night to quite a ruckus, thinking that an earthquake was underway. Upon exploration, they instead found what appears to be a sizeable chunk of the rocket used to launch Chang’e II toward the moon in a launch on Friday. Fortunately, the debris fell harmlessly onto rural land, injuring no one and causing no property damage.
June 13, 2010: HAYABUSA-1 ASTEROID SAMPLE RETURN MISSION
The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa reentered the earth’s atmosphere over central Australia on June 13, 2010 after a 7 year, 4.5 billion kilometer journey. I set up a ground station at the Coober Pedy (South Australia) airport using a 75mm lens and image intensifier to record the planned reentry. However, trouble with the hardware made it impossible to capture a complete record of the occurrence. Both cameras and their mounting plate disappeared from my luggage between Houston, Texas and Adelaide, Australia. With only 2 days left after this discovery I located 3 c-mount cameras in a box of junk stored in a hotel in Coober Pedy. The cameras (courtesy of Dean Clee, Comfort Inn), covered with dust, had apparently never been used. Instead of having no usable system, I now was able to cobble together two working sets of equipment with still some last minute challenges. After brief night testing and focusing problems, some issues were overcome literally in the last critical hour prior to reentry. Skies were amazingly clear despite earlier dismal forecasts for overcast skies. In spite of the GPS time signal coming in clearly and appearing to be inserted into the video stream, the video camera (PAL format) would not display it. After the fact it was determined that the Canon camcorder (NTSC format) recorded only the first 226 lines of each frame but the KIWI OSD time inserter writes the text beginning on line 278 (per the PAL format). Also and more critically, in order to achieve perfect focus the end product images displayed on the small camcorder screen were not erect images. This made it impossible to lock on to the initial field of view in time and made it very difficult to track consistently as guiding had to be accomplished manually. Tracking was accomplished for about 15 seconds until the very short power chord of the primary camera was inadvertently severed in the dark as a result of the rapid manual tracking required for Hayabusa cutting off the video. Yet, some useful optical video data was collected. Here are a few stills from the video capture courtesy of R.Nugent who captured it using LIMOVIE. The orientation of the frame grabs were then adjusted to show the way they would have appeared as erect images from my Coober Pedy airport location north of the Hayabusa ground track.
The sample return capsule (small round blob) separated hours earlier from the spacecraft bus; but optically they appear quite close together. The two became distinct only after the bus exploded at an altitude of about 75km. At first the blazing fireball overwhelms the sensor and it is not possible to make out faint stars. The bright blob is the bus and the two extended smeared images in the right center are ghost images created by internal lens reflections. 3.75 seconds after the above image this frame shows the capsule’s trail along with the debris from the spacecraft bus (above). Stars are now clearly visible. 5.5 seconds after the first frame, the debris trail begins to coalesce into groups of fragments. 6.93 seconds after the first image many individual large bus fragments glow as separate points of light. It was shortly after this image that power to the camera was inadvertently disconnected. Had this event not occurred, it is expected that the capsule could have been tracked much farther than any other ground imagery site. Note how the straight trail generated by capsule separation begins to fade (right side) as chemiluminescence effects start to quickly diminish with time. Also, the trail begins to coalesce into small more highly dense clumps similar to those seen in aircraft contrails and also in Space Shuttle reentry vortices.
Photo of my two video systems taken 6 hours prior to the reentry. The left camera was the one being used for tracking and recorded the frames on this page. The 8 AA battery pack sitting on the red crate as the power source that became separated from the camera in the dark as the mount swung through more than 90 degrees of azimuth travel.
May 25, 2010: ATLAS V DEBRIS
“The piece of rocket that washed ashore on Hilton Head Island has everyone talking. Several people sent WTOC pictures of the space debris after it floated onto Palmetto Dune’s beach Saturday evening. It’s about 25 feet long and 14 feet wide and for now it’s being kept at the Hilton Head Fire and Rescue headquarters. Now, there is new information about how it may have ended up on Hilton Head Island. WTOC has been in email contact with two spacecraft experts in the United States and in Europe.
Both experts seem to think the rocket was launched at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Marc Roy with Ariane Space says the debris came from an Atlas rocket. Roy, along with ordinance service manager Steven Osmer from Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, believe it was from the Atlas V rocket that was launched April 22. Osmer says it is rare for debris from these rocket to come off, but it does happen. The Atlas V was carrying the US military’s space plane prototype, called a orbital test vehicle.
Source 1: https://www.wmbfnews.com/story/12901768/rocket-debris-found-on-beach-goes-to-museum/
Source 2: https://www.wtoc.com/story/12541816/experts-weigh-in-on-rocket-debris-found-on-hilton-head/
November 4, 2009: ARIANE PAYLOAD FAIRING
A piece of Ariane V payload fairing was discovered on a beach on the Yucatan, Mexico approximately halfway between Cancun and the Belize border. The fairing is quite similar, though not as large, as one that washed up also in Mexico in January 2013. It was 4 to 5 meters long and about 1.5 meters in length.
Payload fairing fragment
Payload fairing with people to show perspective.
Sylda antenna nomenclature
Beachside location where the fairing was originally found.
2009: PRESSURE SPHERES
Sometimes you can find them advertised for sale on the internet as in the photo below.
Titanium sphere advertised for sale in 2009.
Note the indentation where straps holding it in place outside the spacecraft or rocket stage. The sphere diameter was measured as 13.779 inches (350mm) and weight 16.5 lb (7.5kg). A collector site advertised this and stated ” The numbers 015293 and 98 3 were stamped in to the flats of each connection point. ts connection point is fitted with a high precision thread that still works so perfectly that, when done up finger tight, creates an airtight seal without an “o” ring or thread sealant. “
2008 PRESSURE SPHERE
Discovered in Mexico (location not known) this object is in private hands. It has sustained damage at both ends.
A single pressure sphere on display. Credit: Open Minds Production.
2008: TITANIUM SPHERE This casing (above) was found by A. Taylor while flying over an area in Australia in 2008 surveying cattle. From markings it was determined to be part of a Delta 2 rocket that launched INSAT 1B in 1990. Depending on the remoteness of the area it is not uncommon for objects never to be discovered or discovered decades after they have entered the atmosphere.
Does this look familiar? Another similar object fell in Rio Goias, Brazil around March 24, 2008.
September 29, 2008: AUTOMATED TRANSFER VEHICLE (ATV) -1
On September 29, 2008, the European Space Agency’s ATV-1 reentered the atmosphere at the end of its mission to resupply the ISS. An airborne observing campaign was organized to monitor the reentry from two aircraft (P.I.: Peter Jenniskens, SETI Institute). I had proposed to the ATV Project in 2002 that the reentry of the first flight of this new, unflown vehicle should be considered for monitoring and reentry documentation. In late 2007, Jason Hatton of ESA/ESTEC and Peter Jenniskens proposed a way to do this with help of NASA Ames and NASA Dryden aircraft. ESA funded the flight of two airplanes loaded with instrumentation to intercept the entry path.
The first ATV vehicle to fly in space as it moves away from the International Space Station. Two experiments I proposed were flown onboard a Gulfstream aircraft and used by Ed Barker to obtain more than 3 minutes of video. An image sequence is shown below. These photos were extracted from an 8mm video shot with a 75mm objective lens and image-intensified. The imagery was obtained when the Gulfstream was about 13,000m altitude and were provided courtesy of the NASA Orbital Debris Office.
The last image of the fireball and its trailing pieces.
2007 PRESSURE SPHERE
Then there are these images from James Stirten who found this object 54 cm wide and weighing 20kg in 2007 at a location about 800km west of Brisbane, Australia.
The people who live in the village of Korgon in Russia periodically have rocket debris which falls in their area.
Source: http://www.storee.se/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1428:Bombarded by Space Debris The above piece of debris was recovered and is technically not space debris in that it came down during the ascent process.
January 15, 2006: STARDUST
A capsule carrying interstellar dust reentered the earth’s atmosphere at 12km/second and was protected by an ablative material which resulted in the successful recovery of its contents. The landing was on January 15, 2006 after a six year trip.
“For the third time in four years, a PAM-D (Payload Assist Module – Delta) solid rocket motor casing has been recovered after an uncontrolled atmospheric reentry. Coincidentally, all three reentries occurred during the month of January in the years 2001, 2004, and 2005. All were also utilized in the deployment of NAVSTAR spacecraft for the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS).
The most recent event occurred on 13 January 2005 when the NAVSTAR 49 PAMD (2000-071C, U.S. Satellite Number 26607) reentered over Asia. The titanium casing of the STAR-48B solid rocket motor was subsequently found near Bangkok, Thailand (Figure 1). The egg-shaped object had a diameter of 1.2 m and a mass of more than 50 kg and closely resembled the casings found in Saudi Arabia in January 2001 and in Argentina in January 2004.
“The Star-48 rocket motor, which is connected to the satellite until the motor is done firing, completed its mission and began orbiting the Earth. The titanium rocket motor casing reentered Earth’s atmosphere Jan. 13, 2005. The motor landed in the rural province of Chachoengsa, Thailand (about 100 km east of Bangkok), and reportedly bounced approximately 200 meters. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries or damages. Shortly thereafter, the local Thai police recovered the debris, and Thai government officials shortly began making plans to put the debris in a museum. However, the U.S. Department of State and its embassy staff in Bangkok began negotiations with Thai officials to recover the rocket motor and have it returned to the United States for reentry orbit analysis.
1st Lt. Cassandra Putman, Delta II Propulsion and Ordnance Office, took charge in getting the debris returned to the Space and Missile Systems Center. Local Pacific Air Forces reservist, Maj. Mike Zellmer, who has logistics experience in Thailand, contacted the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Thailand, and advised them of the situation. The cooperation with JUSMAGTHAI was the catalyst that set the recovery and movement efforts back to the United States in motion. JUSMAGTHAI coordinated all transfer agreements with the Thai government and arranged movement of the debris back to the United States while Lt Putman managed and monitored the recovery effort from here at SMC. Just as the debris was being manifested and load-planned for an Air Mobility Command mission back to U.S. soil, the Thai government was hit with a political coup. However, the coup proved to be relatively benign to the recovery mission there and the debris was airlifted after a short hiatus. “
Each launch of a NAVSTAR spacecraft left a PAM-D in a highly elliptical orbit of approximately 200 km by 20,000 km. During the period January 2001 through January 2005, a total of 10 of these rocket bodies, with ages ranging from 3 to 10 years, reentered with a 30 percent recovery rate, a rate consistent with the ratio of Earth’s land to water area. Orbital inclinations of the 10 stages ranged from 22deg to 39deg, limiting reentries to between 39deg North and 39deg South latitude.”
January 20, 2004: TITANIUM SPHERE
A titanium rocket casing fell near the town of San Roque, Argentina January 20, 2004. It was measured to be 3.m around, 1.6m long, 1.4m wide weighing about 45kg. Boeing serial numbers A41-8106037501-S or 1060370-501F (information is not clear) were identified:
The recovered debris is believed from a Delta launch October 26, 1993 to place the NAVSTAR-34 GPS into orbit. Note the similarity in the physical appearance of the picture on the lower left in this sequence and the image which landed in Saudi Arabia. Accounts indicate that the object leaked a yellow liquid. No injuries were reported from the impact which occurred in the afternoon in a field belonging to the Bolo family 15km from the city of San Roque. Thanks to Luis Augusto Reggiardo for the above information.
September 2004: GENESIS
Another capsule landed and was recovered but not in good shape since the spacecraft parachute failed to deploy properly. Landing occurred September 2004.
November 14, 2004: TELSTAR 402
An oxidizer tank was found near Belem (Para), Brazil in August 2006 related to the reentry of Telstar 402 which occurred November 14, 2004. It measured about 80 cm in diameter and was 1m in height. The owner of a farm found this tank 2 years after the actual reentry. The tank probably belonged to the Ariane 3rd stage rocket.
April 2003: ATLAS ROCKET DEBRIS
The principal object shown above is 1.2 m in diameter and is spherical and was immediately transported to police headquarters in Guatemala City. It was seen hitting a hill and rolling down to the point where it was found and reported. You can see the trend that hardened spherical objects are more prone to survive reentry intact. The sphere bears keen resemblance to the Shuttle fuel cell shown at the top of this page.
November 2003: CHINESE FSW IMAGERY SATELLITES
Fanhui Shi Weixing (FSW, 返回式卫星), or “recoverable satellite” in its English translation, is a series of remote-sensing satellites launched and operated by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Between 1974 and 2006, there were a total of 24 FSW satellites in six variants being launched, of which 22 were recovered successfully.
Source: http://www.sinodefence.com/space/military/fsw.asp Above is a photo of an FSW reentry capsule after its landing. A Chinese satellite capable of imaging from space and returning those images in a recoverable capsule is another example of a reentry. However, this one is non-destructive in nature. The photo above shows an example of a normal recovery of this capsule. This one was launched November 3, 2003 and landed some 18 days later in Sichuan Province, China. Sometimes the capsule does not land nominally. FSW 3-3 was a recoverable, photo-imaging spacecraft that was launched on 27 September 2004. Its purpose was advertised to be used in scientific research, geological surveying, and mapping. After its 18 day mission the capsule returned to Earth on October 15, suspended on its parachute, crashed through the roof of a house in the village of Penglai, Sichuan province.
February 1, 2003: SHUTTLE COLUMBIA DEBRIS
Although I have a separate page for STS-107 reentry debris, the following are some representative examples of pieces that survived reentry. Fuel Cell (as you scroll down through this page you will see how familiar this shape is for objects that have survived reentry through the Earth’s atmosphere) Tank Connectors Debris can land anywhere, for example on top of a roof. …in the street. …at a gasoline station.
If the debris stream is detected on radar, it can show up in spectacular form as the red track shows from the National Weather Service Radar at Shreveport, Louisiana. Tank found near a lake in East Texas. Recovered pressure vessels