As suspected, the canister-like object that washed ashore in Green Head, Western Australia, in mid-July likely belongs to a discarded third stage from an Indian rocket, the Australian Space Agency announced over the weekend.
More specifically, the third stage came from a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), a medium-lift rocket that the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launches on a regular basis. The PSLV third stage is a “solid rocket motor that provides the upper stages high thrust after the atmospheric phase of the launch,” according to ISRO.
In its tweet, the Australian Space Agency said it’s “most likely debris” from an expended PSLV, so it’s still not the ironclad confirmation we were expecting.
“The debris remains in storage and the Australian Space Agency is working with ISRO, who will provide further confirmation to determine next steps, including considering obligations under the United Nations space treaties,” the space agency added, saying it “committed to the long-term sustainability of outer space activities, including debris mitigation, and continues to highlight this on the international stage.”
From the get-go, there were suspicions that the cylindrical object, damaged and covered in barnacles, originated from an Indian rocket. ISRO officials chimed in during the days following its discovery, saying it definitely came from a rocket, but that it “cannot confirm or deny anything about it without seeing it in person and checking it.”
The large, copper-toned cylindrical object washed ashore on July 15, leaving both state and federal officials puzzled. Pulled from the water by a local couple’s four-wheel-drive vehicle, the object is over 8 feet (2.4 meters) across and shows signs of being in the water for a prolonged period. While the state fire department confirmed it poses no threat to public safety, the Australian Space Agency urged locals to avoid handling the object while its origin remained unidentified.
Early speculation linked the object to aircraft debris, even suggesting a connection to the missing Boeing 777 from flight MH370. Still, the more credible theories suggested that the object came from a rocket, which now appears to be the case. As the Australian Space Agency points out, ISRO should now claim its suspected property and provide that added confirmation.
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