Mysterious space object turned out to be a fragment of a SpaceX rocket

The Australian Space Agency is investigating space debris that fell on Snowy mountains in southern New South Wales, The Guardian reports. Between July 14 and 25, three large pieces of a badly burned object were discovered, one of which resembled a monument to aliens installed among a grassy field.

A probable fragment of a SpaceX Crew Dragon that fell into a field in Australia. Photo: The Guardian

Experts identified the parts and suggested that they belong to the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, which delivered four astronauts to the International Space Station in November 2020 – it became the company’s first crewed mission to an orbiting space station. Then the spacecraft re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on July 9, forming a fiery streak in the morning sky over Australia.

The appearance and dimensions of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Source: SpaceX

“This is the part of the Crew Dragon cargo compartment that separates before the Dragon capsule returns to Earth. It has dimensions of 4 x 4 meters and weighs a little more than 100 kg,” explained Marco Langbroek, professor of astrodynamics and space missions at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands. 

The Crew Dragon cargo compartment is located under the spacecraft. This compartment remains attached to the Dragon until the spacecraft is about to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Before the descent, it detaches from the multiple spacecraft. When Crew Dragon lands, the cargo compartment remains in orbit for a while, but subsequently burns up in the atmosphere. But not all parts are completely destroyed and can reach the surface of the Earth.

A farmer next to a space debris that fell on his field

With the development of the private space industry and their growing space ambitions, incidents with the fall of spacecraft parts are happening more and more often. Last week, the wreckage of a Chinese rocket fell on the territory of Indonesia and Malaysia, after its main stage fell to the Earth on July 30. Although these cases of space debris have not yet resulted in casualties, a new study shows that the chance of fatalities will increase every year. With this in mind, companies like SpaceX should take into account where their rockets fall, or at least admit it when they land near populated areas.

SpaceX has not yet confirmed whether this piece of space debris belongs to the company.

Recall that earlier the ISS fired a garbage cannon.

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