Benjamin Reed, a senior director of SpaceX’s Human Spaceflight Program, acknowledged the multiple pieces of space debris are in fact from the SpaceX Dragon capsule’s trunk.
“We did get reports of debris of the Dragon trunk that had landed in the outback of Australia,” he said.
“We actually have a team that’s going to check that out.”
During the conference, Reed referred to modelling performed regarding potential landing locations of the debris.
“Importantly, this was all within the expected analysed space of what can happen.
"We look very closely at the data; we learn everything that we can.
“The important news is, of course, there was no injury or damage,” Reed said.
While SpaceX has not released an official statement on the incident, its apparent lack of action has drawn criticism from some Australian scholars, with UNSW space law lecturer Duncan Blake calling its response, “a bit dismissive” and that SpaceX “ought to be doing more”.
SpaceX is working with the Australian Federal Aviation Administration and the Australian Space Agency to coordinate the investigation.
Three separate pieces of space debris were discovered in the Snowy Mountains last month, while another piece was retrieved from a beach in Yambuk, Victoria, where it had sat for over a year.
Farmer Jock Wallace was the first to discover the piece of debris in his field on the 21st of July after residents from the town of Dalgety heard a loud bang on 9th July. Wallace contacted his neighbour Mick Miners, who discovered the larger piece of debris on the 25th of July.
The two farmers contacted several regulatory bodies, including the Civil Aviation Safety Authority who initially advised Wallace to contact NASA. The pair eventually contacted Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University College of Science working out of the Mount Stromlo Observatory.
Tucker travelled to the farms and provided the initial identification of the objects as space debris.
Following reports in the media of the debris, a third resident from the region reported the discovery of similar debris on their property in Moonbah.
The pieces of debris ranged in size, with the largest measuring over two metres in length and wedged deep into the earth on Mick Miners’ property.
Media focus on the debris in the Snow Mountains also prompted the retrieval and formal identification of the debris from Yambuk. The piece had sat in an enclosed beach waterway since being initially discovered in 2021.
After its retrieval, the Australian Space Agency confirmed that the object was indeed space debris, although the origin of the debris has not yet been confirmed.
The discovery of the debris has prompted some concern that space debris could threaten lives, property or livestock in Australia.
“If it landed on your house, it would make a hell of a mess,” said Miners.
The concerns have been echoed internationally, with significant criticism being levelled at the China Manned Space Agency for allowing their Long March 5B rocket to re-enter Earth’s orbit uncontrolled, with fears that it could hit a major population centre.
Liam McAneny is a journalist who has written and edited for his University International Relations journal. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Wollongong in 2021. He joined Momentum Media in 2022 and currently writes for SpaceConnect and Australian Aviation. Liam has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations as well as astronomy.
Send Liam an email at: [email protected]
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