A large piece of the remains of a Falcon-9 SpaceX rocket was found floating off the Isles of Scilly, a remote British island located thousands of miles away from where it exploded after takeoff. Researchers are somewhat baffled because they are still trying to figure out how it ended up in England after exploding over Florida back in June. The debris, which measures around 32 feet by 13 feet, was found by two local fishermen who then towed it to a nearby beach, where it was later removed, a BBC report explained.
According to a statement from Coastal Area Commander Martin Leslie, the part is most likely from the ill-fated Falcon-9 SpaceX rocket, however, many astronomers believe it is from a different mission due to its size and markings. The spacecraft was on a mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station and had no crew aboard, The Verge wrote.
While doing his usual round, Joseph Thomas, an employee of a local ferry service on the small island of Tresco in southern England, spotted something in the waters.
“My first thoughts were, it might be a whale or something dead floating on the surface, because there were seabirds feeding off it,” Thomas told local media outlets. “It turned out they were feeding off goose barnacles.”
Thomas was surprised to learn that what had emerged from the waters was a large metal piece of a space rocket.
“Once we got it ashore with the help of another vessel, (the coastguard) scraped some of the goose barnacles off, and it just so happened the first place they scraped, they found the flag,” Thomas said. “It’s not every day part of a rocket washes ashore at home.”
As explained in a report from Engadget, the Falcon 9 rocket launch intended to carry a Dragon capsule with research materials and provisions to the International Space Station (ISS).
“‘The markings show an American flag,” a Coast Guard spokesman said. “It looks like it’s an American rocket and is similar to the unmanned Space X Falcon 9 which blew up shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral in June.”
If confirmed, astronomers must now determine how the remains have showed up over 4,000 miles away from where the initial launch took place. SpaceX — the first private company to obtain a contract with NASA to conduct this type of unmanned supply mission — has not yet confirmed that it is the Falcon-9 rocket.
Authorities are now checking it for serial numbers and the Coast Guard has issued a warning to mariners in the region after the discovery, while also thanking the people of the region who helped recover the piece.
At the time, the incident was the third spacecraft from Elon Musk’s company to fail to resupply the International Space Station in months. Musk plans to start manned flights in 2017 and NASA expects to spend some $5 billion underwriting development of commercial spacecraft built by Boeing and SpaceX to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The Guardian reported that the missions will not take place until NASA verifies the safety of the equipment and crew. The flights, assuming they pass the certification, will take place on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
“The authority to proceed with Dragon’s first operational crew mission is a significant milestone in the Commercial Crew Program and a great source of pride for the entire SpaceX team,” the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, explained in a statement.”When Crew Dragon takes NASA astronauts to the space station in 2017, they will be riding in one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown. We’re honored to be developing this capability for NASA and our country.”
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