Paul Maley «Space Junk» 1960-2001.

Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, payload assist module

The above image is of a large motor that survived reentry on January 12, 2001 falling in Saudi Arabia. It is from a Delta rocket third stage motor casing. There were no sonic booms or flashes in the night sky signalling its arrival. It was simply discovered lying in the sand, weighing some 70kg. This is a titanium case and located inside a PAM-D (payload assist module). This particular module gives the satellite payload its final thrust and allows for some positioning maneuvers in orbit to release the spacecraft properly. The PAM-D completes its task and becomes space junk, eventually decaying from orbit. The following images shows the intact PAM-D in the factory.


Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, COSMOS 2267
Near Cosala Mexico a piece of Cosmos 2267 that decayed from orbit in December 1994 was found and displayed; it is 2.4 x 2.4 m with a 20kg mass.

Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, Sputnik1 1960
One of the earliest recorded man-made space debris falls occurred in Manitowoc, Wisconsin on May 15, 1960. A piece of Sputnik IV fell in on North 8th street and was recovered there. It was 0.15 m in size and 9.5 kg in mass. And even though the original piece was ultimately returned to the Russians, there is an intensely realistic piece of it protected in a glass case inside the Rahr-West Museum. There is also a small brass ring in the middle of the street that commemorates the fall.

Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, Delta Rockets
One such as this one fell in South Africa (courtesy W. Koorts) and these parts were located in a museum outside of Capetown in April 2000. What was found was a steel propellant tank (1.7 x 2.7 m, mass 270 kg), a titanium pressure sphere (diameter 0.58 m, mass 32 kg), and a composite combustion chamber (0.76 m long, average width 0.25 m). The small titanium sphere and larger tank are two parts that 'typically' survive reentry. This is at least the 3rd such instance where both parts were recovered. (See the top two photos on this page)

Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, Challenger
A large piece of debris from the Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger washed up at Cocoa Beach, Florida almost 11 years after Challenger exploded in 1986. The piece, about 5 m x 2 m, is believed to be part of an elevon or rudder.

Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, Person Hit
Lottie Williams was grazed by a lightweight fragment of charred woven material (10 x 13 cm) material that was later identified from the reentry of the MSX Delta rocket that reentered the atmosphere in 1997. She was in Turley, Oklahoma.

Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, Person Near Hit
Larry Epps stands exactly where we was when the debris piece in front of him hit the ground, Nacogdoches, East Texas, USA.

Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, Person Near Hit
Tourists examine a guarded piece which landed at a gas station, Nacogdoches, East Texas, USA.

Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, astronaut's helmet
Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, Rusk TX
Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, Rusk TX
Large debris found in Rusk, TX.

While it is not clear that anyone has been killed by space debris it was reported that a cow died in Cuba after having been hit by a falling object in 1960. An unknown number of rocket motor and propellant tank pieces were reported to have fallen in Cuba in November 1960 and these are thought to be sub-orbital debris from failure of a Thor booster used to launch the Transit-IIIA satellite on November 30, 1960. Neither the cow nor its owners were available for interviews.

Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, Vostok
Many Russian spacecraft were designed to return humans back to earth. This Vostok capsule is an example of one which survived reentry and is now housed in a space museum in Moscow.

Paul Maley, Orbital Debris, Foton
A small pressure sphere from the Foton 1 satellite was launched into space in April 14, 1988 from Russia. It reentered tw weeks later and was found by Graham Ducas, an employee of the Western Australia State Water Company while prospecting in the desert. The sphere was 6.5 gallons in capacity and is made of titanium; it has a 0.37m.