A piece of the disposable fairing from a SpaceX launched washed up on the UK coast. While original reports identified it as part of the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket that exploded catastrophically shortly after liftoff in June, closer investigation reveals it’s part of a successful cargo run from September 2014.
The original version of this article identified the space junk as likely from the CRS-7 explosion. It has been updated to reflect the later identification that it was part of the successful CRS-4 cargo run.
The BBC reports that part of the wreckage from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has washed up on the coast of the Isles of Scilly, just off the English mainland. The piece of debris, which measures 32ft by 13ft, was first found by Joseph Thomas, who thought it may be a dead whale when he saw gulls were flocking around it.
Closer inspection revealed it to be something else entirely. In a tweet, Pete Hicks, who helped tow the debris ashore, explained: “Towed in and beached a piece of flotsam earlier. Thoughts were could be aviation parts... didn’t imagine space race.”
Coastguards stated that it “seems most likely to be the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 which blew up shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral in June.” Careful analysis by space-fans of available imagery countered this, using identification numbers and logo placements to identify the piece as part of the interstage of the CSR-4 mission instead. The damage to the space debris is consistent with a normal ocean impact.
After narrowing down the possibilities to just four missions, the sharp-eyed fans spotted the tail placement with relation to the “o” was consistent with CRS-4. Image credit: SpaceX//u/drucey//u/__R__
The Isles of Scilly are a little over 4,000 miles from Cape Canaveral where the launch took place, though it’s not unusual for items from the Americas to wash up on UK shores.
The debris has been towed to the nearby town of Tresco, where it’s said to be under guard on the beach.
Top image by Tresco Island. Additional reporting by Mika McKinnon