Australian Space Agency says SpaceX debris fell on sheep farm

At least three large pieces from a SpaceX rocket have been found on farmland in southeast Australia.

According to ABC News, the Australian Space Agency confirmed that the three pieces of debris are likely pieces of a service module jettisoned from the SpaceX Crew Dragon in May.

On July 9, residents in the rural area of Numbla Vale in New South Wales reported hearing sonic booms before two pieces of debris were later found by farmers. According to ABC News, a third piece was discovered on July 14 in nearby Moonbah.

The debris impacted the ground, burying portions below the surface. One piece measured nearly 10 feet long.

NASA told CNN that the debris was likely from the trunk of the SpaceX Crew Dragon. It provides power to the capsule during its time in orbit and is jettisoned into space before the capsule returns to Earth.

The find is the largest known discovery of space debris in Australia since 1979. Pieces of wreckage from the 77-ton U.S. space station Skylab burned up in the atmosphere, spreading debris over the city of Perth on July 11, 1979, according to The Associated Press.

It’s unclear if SpaceX will pay for the removal and transportation of the debris back to the United States or if it will be donated to science.

“The US is liable for any damage that is caused by this space debris ... and Australia could go to the US and seek some form of compensation if there are any costs involved in cleaning it up,” Australian National University’s Institute of Space deputy director Cassandra Steer told ABC News.

There has been increased concern regarding space debris as the number of rocket launches increases yearly.

China has been repeatedly criticized for allowing the final stages of its Long March-5 rocket to reenter the Earth’s orbit out of control. According to the AP, NASA accused Beijing last year of “failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris” after parts of a Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean.

In a study published in “Nature Astronomy” published in July, researchers say that there is a “10% chance of one or more casualties over a decade” caused by rocket body reentry based on current launch practices.

So far, there are no recorded instances of a human being killed by space debris reentering the atmosphere, The Washington Post reported. In 1961, a cow in Cuba was killed, according to Brown University’s Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World.

In 2021, The New York Times reported that an out-of-control SpaceX rocket stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere near Seattle. The newspaper reported that pieces of the rocket landed on a farmer’s property.

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