On November 15, 2020, SpaceX launched a Crew Dragon mission for the first time in its history. The latter should make it possible to send four astronauts to the ISS (the international space station) before returning 6 months later.
If the outward flight went marvelously well for the crew, who reached the station on time, the return today poses more difficulties. At the time, on May 2, no one was worried about the mission. The four astronauts had just returned to Earth, and all phases of the flight had gone well.
One end of the capsule fell much slower than the others
But what SpaceX engineers did not know at the time was that the central module of the spacecraft, which remained in orbit as required by procedure, would eventually fall back to Earth in the months that followed. As reported by the Australian media ABC News, this piece of metal weighing several tons spent more than a year in orbit, before coming to fall back to Earth.
In recent weeks, Australian farmers have indeed seen pieces of the capsule (at least of its trunk) literally falling from the sky. Recently it was Jordan Hobbs, a farmer from New South Wales who found a piece of metal in his field.
If SpaceX recognizes today that pieces of metal are falling from the sky, the announcement, which is intended to be reassuring, does not produce the expected effect at all. As for Hobbs, he assured the Australian media that he had “not been able to sleep all week”, he who fears that new debris will fall on him.
SpaceX recognizes the problem, but it’s not enough
For his part, Benjamin Reed, director of spaceflight programs for SpaceX announced that his team was calculating the trajectories of the largest debris still present in space. Part of this team should also go to Australia in the coming days to carefully study the debris found and go in search of other pieces of the capsule.
In his press conference, Reed nevertheless wanted to be reassuring. He welcomed the fact that no serious incident is currently to be deplored, assuring that SpaceX would do everything to close the incident as soon as possible.
To date, four pieces of metal, more or less large, have been found in the sparsely populated region of New South Wales in Australia.