Space Junk That Fell on Sheep Farm Was From SpaceX Rocket, Agency Confirms

Three pieces of space junk that fell on sheep farms in rural Australia were from a SpaceX rocket, the Australian Space Agency has confirmed.

Sheep farmer Mick Miners was the first to come forward, having found a huge, charred object on his farm south of Jindabyne.

Then his neighbor, Jock Wallace, found a similar object not far away. It was then revealed that a third piece had been discovered in Moonbah.

As it fell, the space junk caused a sonic boom that rang out across the area on July 9, which could be heard by those as far away as Albury, Wagga Wagga and Canberra. People also saw a bright streak of light across the sky.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, the Australian Space Agency has now confirmed that the debris is from a "SpaceX mission."

Space Junk
In this combination image, a picture shows a piece of space junk that fell from the sky. It has now been confirmed it is from a SpaceX mission and inset of Crew-1 Mission spaceX

SpaceX is a spacecraft engineering company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk.

"Technical experts from the Australian Space Agency on Saturday visited a remote part of the Snowy Mountains area of Southern New South Wales, after the discovery of space debris," a spokesperson from the Australian Space Agency said. "The Agency has confirmed the debris is from a SpaceX mission and continues to engage with our counterparts in the U.S., as well as other parts of the Commonwealth and local authorities as appropriate."

When a rocket is launched, parts of the craft break away from the main payload and fall back down towards Earth. Most of these pieces burn up when they hit the atmosphere, however, sometimes, large pieces remain intact. These pieces usually land in the ocean, which makes up two thirds of the Earth's surface. But on occasion, they can hit land.

The confirmation from the space agency is not surprising for some, like Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University College of Science, who visited the scene of the debris a few days prior.

He already suspected that the debris was from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft that launched in 2020. More specifically, he suspected it came from the Crew-1 Trunk of the spacecraft.

The Crew-1 Trunk of the spacecraft was tracked to be re-entering the Earth's atmosphere over the southern parts of New South Wales on Saturday, July 9 at 7 a.m. This was around the same time the sonic boom could be heard.

Tucker told Newsweek that "it is great that they have confirmed it."

"While we have a strong belief it was, it is always great to get the confirmation. It is also critical as it is needed to settle whether SpaceX wants it back or the farmers can keep it. This is pretty much the last remaining step," he said.

Space junk
A picture shows a panel of space junk that fell in rural Australia. Brad Tucker believes it is from the Crew 1 trunk. Brad Tucker

The Australian Space Agency said in its statement that it is now "operating under the Australian Government Space Re-entry Debris Plan which outlines roles and responsibilities for key Australian Government agencies and committees in supporting the response to space re-entry debris."

"The Agency is committed to the long term sustainability of outer space activities, including debris mitigation and has highlighted this on the international stage," the spokesperson said. "The Agency is also developing a Space Sustainability Framework, as well as finalizing a Space Situational Awareness and Debris Mitigation roadmap, to guide opportunities in this important area.

NASA told Newsweek in an email that SpaceX confirmed the object is "likely Dragon hardware from the jettisoned trunk segment from the agency's Crew-1 return from the International Space Station May 2, 2021."

Update 8/4/22 ET 4:10 a.m: This article was updated to include a statement from NASA.