News Culture

Mysterious Potential SpaceX Junk Crash Lands In Australia

The chunks of carbon-fiber debris may have come from a SpaceX rocket.
ABC News Australia

Space junk is a massive problem for astronomers and engineers to mitigate, as it can cause collision risks for satellites, space stations, and rockets. Usually, it poses no threat to people still on the planet because most pieces disintegrate in the atmosphere upon falling back to Earth. Still, there are exceptions, as three large chunks of what was likely a SpaceX launch vehicle landed on a farm in Australia can prove.

A report from ABC News Australia shows a farmer in New South Wales, Australia, standing next to a 9-foot-tall piece of what may be space junk. Locals reportedly heard a large boom and saw falling debris July 9, but given how remote the area was, the farmer only discovered the chunk of debris on July 30. Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist, interviewed by ABC, believes it could be the pieces of the first stage of the Crew Dragon launch from last year, and he explains further in his own video that the rocket was a cataloged object that was proven to be flying over New South Wales on July 9, when the debris was seen initially falling to Earth. SpaceX and New South Wales police have not yet confirmed this theory. Luckily, no injuries or damage were reported from any of the impacts.

The space junk may be the largest found on the continent since 1979, when the United States space station Spacelab de-orbited and hit populated regions of Australia rather than falling into the ocean as intended. Interestingly, the United States claims the legal authority to repossess any landed space junk, even on private property on another continent, but never did so with Spacelab fragments. We’ll see if we ask farmers for the massive carbon fiber chunks of the rocket back if they do end up having come from an American source.