SpaceX rocket launch has sparked “shooting stars” across the Pacific Northwest, a piece of debris has been found on a farm in central Washington.

A week after a SpaceX rocket launch has sparked “shooting stars” sightings across the Pacific Northwest, a piece of debris has been found on a farm in central Washington Friday, April 2.

Local officers from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office in Washington state reported the recovery of an object believed to be a composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage. The rocket launched last March 4 from the NASA Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida as a part of the Starlink 17 mission.

Rocket Launch Debris on A Central Washington Farm

The debris discovery was also shared by the Grant County officers through its official Twitter page, noting that “SpaceX recovered a Composite-Overwrapped Pressure Vessel from last week’s Falcon 9 re-entry. It was found on private property in southwest Grant County this week.” Additionally, local officers report that they would not disclose the exact location nor the name of the farmland owner.

“Media and treasure hunters: we are not disclosing specifics. The property owner simply wants to be left alone,” the local Sheriff’s Office added in the tweet.

The post has received 1.3K likes as of press time, generating interest from other Twitter users. The Twitter thread was filled with inquiries like what happens when this rocket launch debris hits a person or whether SpaceX is liable for any property damage from re-entry problems.

One user replied to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, saying that the owner of the farmland “should show some imagination.” Sharing photos of what appears to be repurposed Starlink pressure tanks, saying that he found them “after their rockets exploded in Texas,” turning the discarded tanks into display cabinets and beer coolers.

The Latest in the Starlink Mission

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has successfully lofted 60 Starlink satellites – the latest in Elon Musk’s space company’s satellite constellation for broadband internet services around the globe – just from the previous month. However, the second stage was not able to properly de-orbit and return to Earth after completing its task. The second stage of the partially reusable Falcon 9 rocket is a smaller version of the first stage tank which continues to boost the rocket spaceward and later separates from the main booster after using its payload.

While the main booster of the Falcon 0 returns to Earth for a landing, being recovered, refurbished, and reused for subsequent missions, the second stage does not end the same way. Usually, the second stage is intentionally destroyed, left to burn on re-entry, or simply left floating away in space. In the event of an atmospheric re-entry, it is expected to undergo a deorbiting burn that lets it burn away with remnants usually aimed to fall anywhere in the Pacific Ocean.

The off-track debris recovered in the Washington farm was supposedly due to an error. An earlier writeup from tech portal Ars Technica explains that there was “not enough propellant” after the launch, leading the Merlin engine insufficiently equipped to complete its burn. As the propellant was “vented into space,” the second stage was left to a less controlled atmospheric re-entry. It led to the stage breaking up over the Pacific Northwest sky visible to the region including parts of Canada, aside from Washington where the debris landed.

Originally published at Science Times