A Piece of a SpaceX Rocket Crash-Landed on a Farm in Washington

A pressure vessel from the company’s Falcon 9 rocket slammed into a private farm in Grant County, Washington, say local police.
April 5, 2021, 2:41pm
​Image: Grant County Sheriff
Image: Grant County Sheriff
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A piece of a SpaceX rocket crashed into a private farm in eastern Washington in late March, local police announced on Friday. 

The discovery of the component followed widespread reports of bright meteor-like streaks in the night sky on March 25, caused by spacecraft debris that burned up in the atmosphere. There have been no reports of damage or injuries due to the falling space junk.

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“SpaceX recovered a Composite-Overwrapped Pressure Vessel from last week’s Falcon 9 re-entry,” the Grant County sheriff's department tweeted along with a photo of the component. “It was found on private property in southwest Grant County this week. Media and treasure hunters: we are not disclosing specifics. The property owner simply wants to be left alone.”

Measuring several feet across, these pressure vessels are particularly robust parts of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket designed to hold extremely cold helium used to pressurize fuel tanks. The vessel probably belonged to a Falcon 9 that was launched on March 4 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to deliver a new batch of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites to orbit, reports Space.com.

The Seattle branch of the National Weather Service tweeted that unofficial information hinted that the March light show seen across the Pacific Northwest was likely the result of debris from the second stage of a Falcon 9 that failed to properly deorbit, or burn up in the atmosphere. 

SpaceX has distinguished its Falcon rockets from other launch vehicles by developing a reusable first stage that can return to Earth for a landing after traveling to space to deploy payloads. The second (or upper) stage of the Falcon rocket, which sits on top of the first at launch, typically executes a controlled burn after it has completed its mission, enabling it to break apart in the atmosphere over oceans.

For this particular spaceflight, however, there was not enough fuel left in the tank for a controlled deorbit, so the second stage fell into a more uncontrolled reentry over the Pacific Northwest, according to Ars Technica.

 Kyle Foreman, a public information officer for the Grant County sheriff's department said that SpaceX staff picked up the rocket part last Tuesday, reports NBC.