Cornwall

US space rocket debris found in sea off Scilly

  • 27 November 2015
  • From the section Cornwall
Media captionRocket debris is removed from the beach on Tresco

A large chunk of an American space rocket has been found in the sea off the Isles of Scilly.

The section of the spacecraft, measuring about 10m (32ft) by 4m (13ft), was spotted on the surface between Bryher and Tresco.

Coastguards believe it is from the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 which exploded after take-off in Florida in June.

However many astronomers believe it is from a different mission due to the size and markings.

Local boatmen towed the section to Tresco where it has now been removed from the beach.

Image copyright Tresco Island
Image caption The rocket section is under guard on a Tresco beach
Image copyright Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Image caption The section of rocket was found floating between the islands of Bryher and Tresco
Image copyright Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Image caption The US flag clearly shows the provenance of the rocket which exploded shortly after take-off

Joseph Thomas, from Tresco Boat Services, found the section of rocket while travelling around the north end of the island.

He said: "There were lots of gulls on the water and I thought initially it was a dead whale and the birds were feeding off it."

Mr Thomas found the debris, which was "covered in goose barnacles", at about 14:00 GMT on Thursday about 100m (328ft) from the shore.

"I didn't know what it was. We tried to drag it ashore using a hook, but it bent it.

"First thoughts were that it was part of a plane, but then we scraped the barnacles off and we saw it was part of a rocket.

"It's not every day part of a rocket washes ashore at home."

Media captionRichy Williams, of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, says it is not unusual for items from the Eastern seaboard to make their way towards Cornwall

"It was too heavy for us to tow."

Coastguards issued a warning to shipping in the area after the discovery.

Spokesman Martin Leslie said: "The markings show an American flag. It looks like it's an American rocket and seems most likely to be the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 which blew up shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral in June.

Image caption Joseph Thomas, from Tresco Boat Services, found the section of rocket while travelling around the north end of the island

"We're grateful for all those who helped in its recovery, it was a great example of the community working together."

That rocket, which broke up shortly after take-off and landed in the sea about 4,100 miles from the Isles of Scilly, was in the process of sending a cargo ship to the International Space Station.

However Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said many experts believed, due to the size and markings which have now been revealed, it was from a different mission.

"All the geeks have been getting together and looking at fine details, and we're pretty sure it's a launch from September 2014 that successfully sent a cargo mission to the space station.

"It didn't look like an exploded rocket to me, it looked like a fairly normal piece of space junk when the lower stage of a rocket falls from a hundred miles up and hits the ocean. Large sections can remain in tact and it's really quite normal," he said.

Islander Pete Hicks, who towed the debris to shore, tweeted: "Towed in and beached a piece of flotsam earlier. Thoughts were could be aviation parts ..didnt imagine space race."

Cornwall-based Michelin chef Nathan Outlaw tweeted: "Look at all those goose neck barnacles! How much do you want for them. Make a great special!"

Image copyright Matt Pengelly
Image caption The wreckage appears to show the words Falcon 9
Media captionA SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disintegrates in a fireball soon after launch

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