Mysterious dome found on Australian beach could be 20-year-old Indian rocket part

European Space Agency engineer Andrea Boyd claimed the object could have come from an Indian rocket launching a satellite.
Chris Young
The mysterious cylindrical object.
The mysterious cylindrical object.

Australian Space Agency / Twitter 

Authorities in Australia have removed the mysterious dome object that recently washed up on a beach in West Australia, a report from ABC News revealed.

In a recent tweet, the Australian Space Agency announced it was communicating with other space agencies to determine whether the cylindrical object may have come from space.

Now, an engineer from the European Space Agency (ESA), Andrea Boyd, has claimed the object likely came from an Indian rocket that could have launched up to 20 years ago.

Potential space debris likely from Indian rocket

The object was discovered on Sunday, July 16, by locals at Green Head Beach, some 155 miles (250 kilometers) north of Perth.

On Tuesday evening, local time, it was wrapped in plastic and lifted from the beach by a front end loader before being transported to a locked storage facility.

According to the ABC News report, ESA engineer Andrea Boyd claimed the object could have come from an Indian rocket launching a satellite.

"We're pretty sure based on the shape and the size, it is an upper-stage engine from an Indian rocket that's used for a lot of different missions," Boyd told ABC News

"Based on the amount of barnacles, it's probably not the one from this year," she continued, adding that it could be up to 20 years old. "But at the same time, when it gets thrown around the ocean it does tend to look older than it would normally." 

Boyd added that the engine would likely have been designed to fall back down to Earth. "It takes a lot of effort to get up to orbit, so the first and second and third stage [engines] usually fall off and end up in the Indian Ocean, so it's probably come from that with the currents and washed up on the beach," she said. 

Boyd also explained that the United Nation's outer space treaty dictates that every rocket program is responsible for safely disposing of its rocket parts.

"There is a United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and they have an outer space treaty that everyone has signed saying that whoever launches something into space is responsible for it right until the very end," she continued.

"The Australian Space Agency is looking into it and they are talking to our friends at the Indian Space Agency to try and collaborate on cleaning this up properly."

Space debris rains down over Australia

Shortly after the object was found, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Chemistry Centre of WA examined the object and found it poses no risk to the community. However, according to Boyd, "it might still have some residual fuel and you just don't want to get people touching that."

Australia has seen a number of high-profile space debris incidents, with the most well-known coming from NASA's first-ever space station, Skylab.

In fact, WA Premier Roger Cook recently stated that the new object could end up at the WA Museum, which already houses a chunk of NASA's Skylab space station that crashed down onto Earth in 1979.

More recently, last year, a farmer discovered a chunk of metal on their farmland that turned out to be part of SpaceX's Crew-1 capsule. In an interview with Interesting Engineering in 2022, Dr. Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University who identified the Crew-1 capsule piece, explained that "we are lucky this landed in a relatively rural area".

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board