SpaceX sends a team to Australia to study its rocket debris

Elon Musk’s firm wants to “learn as much as possible” about the remains of its capsule.

On July 29, an Australian farmer made a very surprising discovery on his estate; he found two large objects resembling space junk planted in the middle of his field. The case made the rounds of the Australian media, and astrophysicist Brad Tucker even went there to try to identify them.

The person concerned estimated that the most likely origin of this debris was a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. An interpretation shared by astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who believes that the atmospheric reentry trajectory of the machine was compatible with this point of fall.

According to the few information available at this time, it was the remains of a launch that left last year, in May 2021. The pieces found apparently corresponded to the trunk, a module which serves in particular as a support for the capsule before it does not detach from the launcher.

After this separation, which took place normally, this object waited a little more than a year quietly perched in its orbit, the time for the friction with the upper atmosphere to bring it back to Earth; this is what happened on July 8, 2022, and these objects appear to have survived the atmospheric re-entry which reduced the rest of the vehicle to dust.

And according to Space.com, a team from SpaceX was finally dispatched to verify the ins and outs of this story. Benjamin Reed, who oversees these missions in Elon Musk’s company, confirmed that he had been informed of the situation during a NASA briefing. They also took the opportunity to confirm the origin of the debris.

Reed insisted that the incident only caused ” no injury, no damage “. He even sees good news there. According to him, we must be satisfied with the fact that these objects have touched Earth in the zone which was initially planned during the planning of the flight.

it’s part of what we do with NASA and the FAA (the federal agency that manages aeronautics in the United States), he explained during his speech. ” We use models that are trusted, so we can predict and plan for these events “, he specifies.

Real expertise or a com’ stunt?

But these models are far from infallible; they become obsolete as soon as the mission does not go as planned, and SpacX knows this very well. A piece of debris belonging to him was already suspected of having ended up on the land of another farm in 2021.

SpaceX did not specify what information the engineers intended to draw from this visit, or whether the firm would make their conclusions public. His troops are content to explain that they want ” learn everything possible of this experience.

It will therefore be interesting to watch for any information on the matter. But it is not certain that the general public gets much out of it; it is more likely to be a way of reassure observerswho judge the negligence of operators at this level more and more severely.

We remember in particular the last example proposed by the Chinese space agency (CNSA). Recently, the wreckage of one of its Long March 5B launchers crashed into the Indian Ocean, after days of speculation about the point of impact (see our article). A negligence that has earned harsh criticism from the CNSA… and the Middle Kingdom is far from the only one who should feel concerned by this issue.

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