NASA confirms origin of space junk that crashed through Florida home

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NASA has confirmed suspicions that the strange object that crashed into a Florida home last month did indeed come from the International Space Station (ISS). The agency analyzed the cylindrical object after it tore through the roof and two floors of a house in Naples on March 8th, and established that it came from a cargo pallet of aging batteries that was released from the ISS back in 2021.

More specifically, NASA revealed in a blog post on Monday that the offending object was a support component used to mount the batteries on the 5,800-pound (2,630-kilogram) pallet released from the space station. Made from Inconel (a metal alloy that can withstand extreme environments like high temperature, pressure, or mechanical loads), the recovered stanchion weighs 1.6 pounds and measures 4 inches high by 1.6 inches in diameter — a smidge smaller than a standard can of Red Bull.

It’s not unheard of for space-related junk to find its way back to Earth — components from rockets launched by SpaceX and (more recently) the China National Space Administration have crashed into properties for example, though such debris typically burns up in the atmosphere. NASA said that also should have happened in this incident, and now it’s trying to work out why it didn’t.

“The hardware was expected to fully burn up during entry through Earth’s atmosphere on March 8, 2024,” said NASA. “The International Space Station will perform a detailed investigation of the jettison and re-entry analysis to determine the cause of the debris survival and to update modeling and analysis, as needed. These models require detailed input parameters and are regularly updated when debris is found to have survived atmospheric re-entry to the ground.”

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