A chunk of metal debris discovered in the sea off the southwestern tip of England could be from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the U.K. coast guard said.
The piece of metal, measuring about 33 feet by 13 feet (10 meters by 4 meters), was spotted off the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain, on Thursday. The site is several thousand miles across the North Atlantic from Cape Canaveral, Florida, where SpaceX routinely launches.
Joseph Thomas, from Tresco Boat Services, made the discovery, BBC reported. "I didn't know what it was. We tried to drag it ashore using a hook, but it bent it," he was quoted as saying. "First thoughts were that it was part of a plane, but then we scraped the barnacles off and we saw it was part of a rocket."
The find was reported to the U.K. coast guard, which immediately issued a warning to shipping in the area, the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency said in a press release.
Local professional boatmen helped recover the debris before it was towed to shore.
"The markings show an American flag. It looks like it’s an American rocket and seems to be very similar to the unmanned Space X Falcon 9 which blew up shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral in June," Martin Leslie, coastal area commander, said in a statement.
SpaceX declined to comment on the discovery but several commenters on Reddit said it’s unlikely the debris came from the Falcon 9 rocket that disintegrated on June 28 just minutes after liftoff. That rocket was carrying an unmanned Dragon cargo capsule with supplies destined for the International Space Station. It was pretty much shredded in the explosion, which SpaceX said was probably caused by a failed strut.
Commenters on a SpaceX thread on Reddit said the markings and the nature of the debris suggest it came from an older SpaceX mission — a Falcon 9 rocket that successfully launched from Cape Canaveral with supplies to the ISS on Sept. 21, 2014. The rocket's first stage, which was not equipped with landing legs, re-entered the atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. East Coast.