A third piece of space junk has been found in the NSW Snowy Mountains, believed to be linked to a SpaceX craft.
- A third piece of space junk has been found in the NSW Snowy Mountains
- The Australian Space Agency visited the region to inspect the fragments first hand
- Authorities made contact with SpaceX to see if they will claim ownership of the fragments
Two other pieces of debris were recently found by farmers at neighbouring properties in Numbla Vale, after a loud bang was heard in the region on July 9.
The sonic boom was believed to be caused by the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which was launched in November 2020, re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
One piece of the junk was embedded deep in the ground and was estimated to be about three metres long.
The third piece of debris was discovered and photographed by a Moonbah resident on July 14.
It was not until the ABC’s coverage of the space junk in late July that the owner came forward.
News of the discoveries also led to a visit from technical experts at the Australian Space Agency and NSW Police on Saturday.
“The agency is actively working to support formal identification of the objects, and is engaging with our counterparts in the US,” an agency spokesperson said.
“If the community spots any further suspected debris they should contact local police in the first instance.”
Monaro Police District Commander Superintendent John Klepczarek said the objects would remain at the properties while authorities waited for SpaceX to confirm ownership.
“We believe it could be associated with SpaceX but we won’t be confirming it until we actually get acknowledgement from them,” he said.
“It’s early indication from them that there could be attempts to retrieve this space junk.”
Like pieces of a puzzle
Australian National University College of Science astrophysicist Brad Tucker said he was not surprised more fragments had been found.
“You’d expect that there would be more bits of this somewhere,” he said.
“You can probably build up enough pieces and put it together almost if more are found.”
Dr Tucker said the discovery of the pieces could be the largest space junk find in Australia since parts of NASA’s Skylab space station fell to Earth near the south-western Western Australia town of Balladonia in 1979.
He said there was still a lot to learn about what might be done with the objects.
“Eventually SpaceX, or at least the US, will have to make a declaration about whether they want to keep it or have it returned, or not,” Dr Tucker said.
“This doesn’t happen that often, so it’s not like you pull out this standard ‘space junk landed in my sheep paddock’ form.
“There’s a lot of unique work that has to be done.”
‘Respect and courtesy, please’
The uniqueness of the situation was not lost on the authorities involved.
“We often say in policing that you never know what today will bring,” said Commander Superintendent Klepczarek.
“But i can tell you the police weren’t expecting to find some space debris when they turned up to work on the weekend.”
Police have asked members of the public to give the property owners privacy during this time.
“This is private property, these are people’s homes,” Commander Superintendent Klepczarek said.
“Don’t go off the roadway, tromping through people’s property looking for the possibility of finding more bits and pieces, just a bit respect and courtesy please.”
SpaceX has been contacted for comment.