Australian Space Agency – Michmutters

Space junk identified at Yambuk by Australian Space Agency

A year-long mystery has been solved after residents of a coastal took it upon themselves to collect a strange black cylinder wedged into a beach waterway.

Yambuk resident Matt King said he found the unidentified object in September 2021 while walking his dogs along the beach.

He had no idea what the “weird bit of stuff” was but knew it was out of the ordinary in a town known for its beautiful estuary, wild beach and tall slide.

two men on a large black container
Harry Sokol and Matt King inspect the object for clues.(Supplied)

“It’s pretty weird. It’s obviously an expensive container. I don’t know if it’s stainless, wrapped in carbon fiber,” he said.

Curiosity and wariness of ocean contamination compelled Mr King to reach out to Colleen Hughson, an ocean plastics campaigner who was awarded Warrnambool citizen of the year for her hands-on environmental work.

A man wearing green leather gloves stands next to a black cylinder
Matt King first found the object on the beach at Yambuk.(Supplied: Colleen Hughson)

Ms Hughson’s credentials for investigating strange things that wash up on beaches are well established in the region.

She runs several local beach clean-up crews that document and log endless data about the hundreds of kilograms of junk that wash up along the south-west coast of Victoria and has found all kinds of strange objects over the years.

A young woman with a camera in front of a large koala puppet
Colleen Hughson organizes clean-up missions along Victoria’s south-west coast.(Supplied: Rosana Sialong)

Ms Hughson said she reported the cylinder to the local police (in case it was a bomb), notified the Australian Space Agency, shared a photograph of the object on her social media accounts and then waited for the authorities to collect the item.

In the meantime, people began sending her articles about other space junk found around the world.


“A lady from Tasmania actually sent us an article of a really similar thing that had landed in Washington on someone’s farm,” Ms Hughson said.

“It was this composite pressure vessel that contains the rocket fuel of the rocket ships.”

A large black cylinder wrapped in shredded material on sand
Matt King found the strange cylinder on the sand at Yambuk.(Supplied: Matt King)

The realization that discarded space objects could re-enter the earth without disintegrating sent Ms Hughson down a rabbit hole of information about spacecraft junk that was intentionally directed to an uninhabited zone in the ocean.

Our ocean space graveyard

A graphic showing spacecraft parts scattered across the ocean floor.
An artistic interpretation of the “spacecraft graveyard” at Point Nemo in the South Pacific Ocean.(ABC News: Jarrod Fankhauser)



SpaceX rocket debris lands in sheep paddock, Australian Space Agency confirms

The Australian Space Agency has confirmed debris found in the NSW Snowy Mountains belongs to SpaceX.

Three pieces of space junk have so far been found in the region, which are considered to be the biggest pieces found in Australia since 1979.

Two pieces were inspected by technical experts from the Australian Space Agency and NSW Police on Saturday.

Police have since confirmed they were also aware of the third piece being found in the region.

a long piece of space junk
This piece of space junk is estimated to be up to three meters long. (ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

Authorities believed the space debris belonged to SpaceX but had been awaiting confirmation.

“The agency has confirmed the debris is from a SpaceX mission and continues to engage with our counterparts in the US, as well as other parts of the Commonwealth and local authorities as appropriate,” an Australian Space Agency spokesperson said.

“The agency is operating under the Australian Government Space Re-entry Debris Plan which outlines roles and responsibilities for key Australian government agencies and committees in supporting the response to space re-entry debris.”

a piece of space junk lies on the ground in a paddock
This third piece of space junk was also found in the NSW Snowy Mountains, near Jindabyne.(Supplied: Nick Lodge)

It comes after locals reported hearing a loud boom on July 9, which was considered to have been caused by the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which was launched in November 2020, re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Locals in the regions are being told that there’s a possibility more pieces could still be found.

“If the community spots any further suspected debris they should not attempt to handle it or retrieve it,” the agency said.

“They should contact the SpaceX Debris Hotline at 1-866-623-0234 or at [email protected].”

SpaceX has been contacted for comment.

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Space junk has landed at two properties in the NSW Snowy Mountains.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)



More Snowy Mountains space junk found amid visit from Australian Space Agency

A third piece of space junk has been found in the NSW Snowy Mountains, believed to be linked to a SpaceX craft.

Two other pieces of debris were recently found by farmers at neighboring 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 meters 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.”

a man stands next to a piece of space junk
Farmer Mick Miners stumbled across a piece of space junk on July 25.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

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 acknowledgment from them,” he said.

“It’s early indication from them that there could be attempts to retrieve this space junk.”

a piece of space junk in a paddock
This piece was photographed in the Moonbah region on July 14.(Supplied: Nick Lodge )

Like pieces of a puzzle

Australian National University College of Science astrophysicist Brad Tucker said he was not surprised more fragments had been found.

a man holds space junk
Snowy Mountains resident Jock Wallace with a piece of space junk.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

“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.”

a man leaning against space junk
Dr Tucker believes more pieces of space junk could be found in the NSW Snowy Mountains.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

Dr Tucker said the discovery of the pieces could be the largest space junk found 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.