This just in from ‘The Sky is Falling’ Department: NASA’s Orbital Debris Newsletter reports that a launch vehicle rocket motor casing was found by ranchers in the Australian Outback during a cattle round-up on a three million-acre pasture property. It was first spotted by Mr. Arthur Taylor who was flying a Cessna aircraft to look for stray cattle. The casing appeared in relatively good condition (see picture above) and did not seem to be very old. Mr. Michael White forwarded numerous photos of the object to the NASA Orbital Debris Program Office, including one with a clear serial number next to the nozzle attachment point. Using the serial number, NASA Kennedy Space Center personnel were able to trace the motor casing to a a specific mission.
The casing came from a Delta 2 rocket used on June 2, 1990 to launch the Indian INSAT-1D geosynchronous spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. This solid rocket motor served as the launch vehicle’s third stage which carried the payload from a low altitude parking orbit into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. (If you want to trace it yourself, here are the particulars: U.S. Satellite Number 20645, International Designator 1990-051C), Reentry of the stage occurred a few months later.
This isn’t the first time rocket casings have been found in Australia, and this object joins similar solid rocket motor casings found in Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Argentina during the past several years.