Last weekend we talked briefly about a SpaceX Falcon 9 second stage that had a problem in orbit and was unable to push itself back into the earth’s atmosphere as planned. Eventually, the second stage of the rocket reentered the atmosphere but did so over the western United States rather than the ocean. Its reentry resulted in a spectacular light show in the skies over parts of Washington state. At the time, it was believed that most of the rocket burned up in the atmosphere, but some could’ve landed in the area of the US Canadian border in the Rocky Mountains.
At least one part of the rocket landed on private property in Southwest Grant County in Washington State and was retrieved by SpaceX. Grant County is in central Washington state, and the component recovered by SpaceX was a composite-overwrapped pressure vessel. The sheriff’s department announced the component was retrieved by SpaceX but was specific in saying that it was not disclosing specifics apparently out of fear that treasure hunters might start scouring the area for more components.
The image shared by the Sheriff’s office seen above shows that the pressure vessel is in surprisingly good condition considering it survived reentry and impact with the ground at presumably high speed. Reports indicate that the pressure vessel left a four-inch indentation in the ground. No other damage and no injuries have been reported from the Falcon 9 reentry.
According to news reports surrounding the debris, the pressure vessel would have contained pressurized helium. While the rocket engines of the second stage of the Falcon 9 malfunctioned, the rocket was able to deploy its payload into orbit without issue, and the first stage landed in Florida as planned. The mission deployed SpaceX Starlink satellites into orbit for its Internet access.