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Strange cylinder definitely a rocket, says India’s space chief

The head of India’s space agency has said he believes the mysterious object that washed up on a WA beach is part of a rocket.

S Somanath added there was “no mystery” about what it could be but argued he couldn’t confirm if it was of Indian origin unless his agency is able to analyse it.

The comments come after the bizarre structure, found on Sunday at Green Head, 250 kilometres north of Perth, made global headlines soon after its discovery on Sunday.

Subsequent reports then suggested the cylinder could be a fuel tank of a PSLV, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle the country uses to launch satellites.


Somanath, who heads the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told the BBC, “It could be a PSLV … [but] unless we see and analyse it, it cannot be confirmed.”

However, he added that “some of the PSLV parts are known to have fallen in the sea beyond Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone” and said it “may have been floating for a long time and finally reached shore”.

In other developments, the canister has now been moved to a storage shed, with local police now working under the assumption it is from a discarded rocket, likely from the separation phase.

“There are very strong indicators to support this belief – but until we can absolutely confirm the origins of this object, we cannot be certain,” said Inspector Geoff DeSanges.


“We want to know exactly where it came from and which rocket, but that’s going to take some time to determine.

“If it’s an item owned by another country, there’ll be discussions, no doubt, to repatriate that item.”

The object is reported to be gold-coloured, 2.5 metres wide, and between 2.5 metres and 3 metres long.

Its discovery has now been reported by the UK’s The Daily Telegraph and the US’ The New York Times, alongside other global outlets.

The story was given credence when the ASA on Monday said it “could be” from a foreign rocket.

“We are currently making enquiries related to this object located on a beach near Jurien Bay in Western Australia,” said the ASA in a tweet.

“The object could be from a foreign space launch vehicle, and we are liaising with global counterparts who may be able to provide more information.

“As the origin of the object is unknown, the community should avoid handling or attempting to move the object. If the community spot any further suspected debris, they should report it to local authorities and notify the Australian Space Agency via [email protected].

“We are committed to the long-term sustainability of outer space activities, including debris mitigation, and continue to highlight this on the international stage.”

The new discovery follows a spate of space junk being discovered scattered in a line in rural NSW last year.

Two of the pieces were later confirmed to belong to a SpaceX mission that re-entered the atmosphere over Australia in July last year, bringing with it a sonic boom that residents across the Snowy Mountains region reported hearing.

SpaceX followed up by sending a team in August last year to visit the sites where the debris was found.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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