That’s no aircraft debris . . . that’s part of a SpaceX rocket

By on October 15, 2018

Park Service maintenance staff hauled the debris  off the beach Monday. (Janille Turner)

For the second time in a year, a piece of debris from a rocket launch on the Florida coast has washed up along the Outer Banks.

On Sunday, Angie and Chris Langdon first alerted us to the debris near Ramp 67 on Ocracoke Island.

Janille Turner of Ocracoke was the first to discover it washed up on Saturday, and sent us pictures Monday of the Park Service removing it from the beach.

SpaceX, the private space transportation services company founded by Elon Musk, confirmed Monday to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Chief Ranger Boone Vandzura that it was “hardware” from one of its rockets.

Last October, a 15-foot long section of a SpaceX rocket launched from Cape Canaveral washed up off Hatteras village.

National Park Service maintenance staff hauled off the latest find Monday morning, and SpaceX “was making arrangements to dispose of it appropriately,” Vandzura said.

A SpaceX spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that the debris is part of the fairing from their most recent launch from Florida on Sept. 10.

The fairing ejects at T+3:38. (SpaceX/Youtube)

A Falcon 9 rocket propelled the Telstar 18 VANTAGE satellite into orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 successfully returned to Earth, landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

The fairing covers the payload atop the rocket, protecting it while the stack streaks through the atmosphere.

The cover is then ejected after reaching the vacuum of space and drops back into the ocean.

“Thanks to the advances we’ve made in reusability, SpaceX is the only company capable of recovering our rocket boosters and spacecraft,” said company spokesperson James Gleeson.

“We have also been actively attempting to recover Falcon 9 payload fairings on the West Coast with our recovery vessel, Mr. Steven, which was recently upgraded with a four-times larger net,” Gleeson said. “No other company or space agency has ever attempted to recover a fairing before – it’s a very difficult challenge.”

The fairing section that washed ashore at Ocracoke was not intended to be recovered, and was not fitted with parachutes.

“SpaceX will continue to attempt fairing recovery in the future as we learn how to bring fairings back and reuse them,” Gleeson said. “All of which are important milestones on the road to full and rapid rocket reusability.”





  • Charlie B.

    Like I said…

    Tuesday, Oct 16 @ 7:12 am
  • Charlie B.

    Here’s the “why” this occurred:

    Some missions require that the first stage use all the propellants up since their payloads are heavier – thus sometime the stages are not reusable as others that land to be reused have been. The pieces become modern-day Jetsum-floatsum.

    Tuesday, Oct 16 @ 7:28 am
  • Sam Walker

    It looks like its part of the fairing around the payload. I’ve been trying to find some close-up still images to see if it matches but no luck as of yet. Still waiting to hear from SpaceX Media Relations.

    Tuesday, Oct 16 @ 9:26 am
  • jackie harris

    And some people are worried about plastic straws!

    Tuesday, Oct 16 @ 8:18 am
  • Martin Winlow


    (And the item washed up is a part of the ‘interstage’ section of the Falcon Heavy rocket launched in Fed 2018 – see – the red and white lines are part of the US flag painted on the side of the interstage section just above the horizontal beam connecting the 2 booster rockets to the main rocket).


    Tuesday, Oct 16 @ 9:36 am
  • John

    I bet its from the rocket that dident land on the platform, when they launched the Tesla.

    Tuesday, Oct 16 @ 1:06 pm
  • Sam Walker

    We’ve updated the story with comments from SpaceX, as well as some new information. It is the fairing from a recent launch.

    Tuesday, Oct 16 @ 6:00 pm
  • TomF

    @Jackie Harris
    Number of orbital rocket lunches per year in the US, 30 (space flight 101 data)

    Number of plastic straws used per DAY 500 million (NPS data)

    The numbers are a bit lopsided.

    Saturday, Oct 20 @ 9:10 pm