The Australian Space Agency has confirmed debris found in the NSW Snowy Mountains belongs to SpaceX.
Three pieces of debris have so far been located
Snowy Mountains residents have been told more pieces could be found
People are being told to contact a hotline if they do find more
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.
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.”
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].”
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 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.”
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.”
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 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.
“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 road, tromping through people’s property looking for the possibility of finding more bits and pieces, just a bit respect and courtesy please.”