Summary of Recovered Reentry Debris

This page lists the major pieces of recovered debris from space hardware reentries over the years. If you are aware of recovered debris not appearing here, please e-mail a description of the debris, and provide references to supporting evidence, e.g., news articles, government reports, photographs, etc. We will add sufficiently corroborated events to our list.  

The first 44 items listed below were adapted from: Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, “Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects: Analysis and Background Data,” U.S. Government Printing Office, May 1972. Item 45 is adapted from: Perry, Robert, “A History of Satellite Reconnaissance Volume IIIA – Gambit,” January 1974 (NRO Approved for Release Sept. 17, 2011)

Item

Event

Remarks

1.

An unknown number of pieces of debris from a space object were reported to have fallen in South Africa in September 1960.

May have resulted from unsuccessful attempt to launch an Atlas/Able.

2.

An unknown number of rocket motor and propellant tank pieces were reported to have fallen in Cuba in November 1960.

Believed to be sub-orbital debris from failure of a Thor booster used to launch the Transit-IIIA satellite on November 30, 1962.

3.

In March and June 1962, 11 pieces of stainless steel skin (average mass 2.7 kg) and one sustainer rocket engine spherical pressure bottle (0.56 m diameter, mass 21.7 kg) were found in Brazil and South Africa.

Identified as pieces from Atlas booster for Mercury MA-6 mission, launched Feb. 20, 1962.

 

 

4.

In July 1962, a spherical pressure vessel about 0.4 m in diameter was found near Porto Allegre, Brazil.

Part of a U.S. Air Force test satellite.

5.

In September 1962 a cylindrical metal piece (diameter 0.15 m, mass 9.5 kg) fell on a street intersection in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

Identified as part of Soviet Sputnik IV, launched May 15, 1960.

6.

In October 1962, three pieces of stainless steel skin (average size 0.9 x 1.2 m) and one piece of aluminum with steel nut, bolt, and washer attached (about 5 x 5 cm, mass 0.22 kg) were found in the Ivory Coast and Upper Volta.

Identified as pieces from Atlas booster for Mercury MA-8 mission, launched Oct. 3, 1962.

7.

In April and June 1963, two spherical pressure vessels were found near Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia.

Believed to be from U.S. Agena rocket stage used to launch U.S. Air Force test satellites on Dec. 14, 1962 and Jan. 7, 1963. Both rocket stages reentered from orbit in January 1963.

8.

In May 1963, a piece of stainless steel skin (0.42 m², mass 2.7 kg) was found near Concordia, Argentina.

Identified as part of the Atlas booster for Mercury MA-9 mission, launched May 15, 1963.

9.

In May 1963, a piece 0.3 x 0.38 m was found about 200 km north of Pretoria, South Africa.

Believed to be part of a Soviet spacecraft.

10.

In March 1964, a metal spherical pressure vessel (mass 11 kg) fell near Belem, Brazil.

Believed to be part of a DOD Agena rocket stage.

11.

In March 1964, an undetermined number of fragments fell in British Columbia, Canada.

Believed to be of Soviet origin.

12.

In May 1964, a charred piece of electronic equipment (mass 79 kg) was found near La Fria, Venezuela.

Identified as part of a DOD satellite launched April 27, 1964, which reentered May 26, 1964.

13.

In December 1964, and January 1965 a metal sphere (diameter 0.84 m), an aluminum cylinder (4 x 1.5 m) and four fragments of a rocket nozzle were found in northern Argentina.

Identified as pieces from a DOD Titan III booster stage, possibly from a Trans-stage launched Dec. 10, 1964, which reentered Dec. 13, 1964.

14.

In January 1965, a piece of woven asbestos sheet was found in Malawi.

Identity not confirmed.

15.

In early 1965, an object having the appearance of a space fragment was reported washed ashore on Abaco Island in the Bahamas.

Possibly from the Atlas-Mariner I booster which was destroyed by the range safety officer shortly after launch on July 22, 1962, and landed in the designated ocean impact area.

16.

In June 1965, three pieces believed to be space fragments were found in the Madiya Pradesh and Kota districts of India.

Believed to be pieces from a DOD Titan IIIC development test launched June 18, 1965.

17.

In September 1965, a titanium sphere (diameter 0.5 m), called the Merkanooka ball, was found in Australia.

Identified as a tank used for drinking water in Gemini V spacecraft launched 21 August 1965, components of which reentered in late August 1965.

18.

In December 1965, three metal spheres fell near Seville, Spain.

Believed to have been parts from Soviet Luna 8 rocket stage, launched Dec. 3, 1965, parts of which reentered on Dec. 5 and 6, 1965.

19.

In March 1966, a piece of plastic shroud (about 1.2 x 1.5 m) was found in Australia.

Identified as part from Echo II, launched Jan. 25, 1964, one part of which reentered Feb. 23, 1966.

20.

In April 1966, a helium pressure sphere (diameter 1 m, mass 113.3 kg) was found by crew of Brazilian fishing boat at sea off coast of Brazil.

Identified as part of S-IVB stage of Saturn booster sub-orbital test that was launched Feb. 26, 1966, and landed in the designated ocean impact area.

21.

In May 1966, a piece of lightweight metal (0.5 x 0.3 m), an oval-shaped metal piece (0.4 x 0.2 m), a black beehive-shaped piece (10 x 12 cm), and four pieces of fragile wire were found in the Rio Negro District of Brazil.

Identified as parts of S-IVB stage of Saturn development test (SA-5) launched Jan. 29, 1964, which reentered April 30, 1966.

22.

In June 1966, a fragment believed to have returned from space was found in Colombia.

Identified as part of Atlas booster used to launch Agena target vehicle either for Gemini 8 or Gemini 9A (launched March 16 and June 1, 1966). Probably from Gemini 9A target vehicle booster.

23.

In July 1966, a piece of lightweight metal (4.7 x 2.6 m) and a piece of aluminum (3.3 x 5.1 m) were found in Peru and Zambia, respectively. In August and November 1966 a truncated cone metal piece (5.4 kg) and a smaller piece were found in Swaziland.

Identified as pieces from S-IVB stage of Apollo-Saturn development test (AS-203) launched July 5, 1966.

24.

In October 1966, a titanium spherical pressure vessel (diameter 0.37 m, mass 13.6 kg) was found near Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

Identified as Soviet in origin.

25.

In January 1967, a metal sphere (diameter 0.58 m, mass 15.8 kg) was found in Peru.

Identified as part of Delta booster used to launch Biosatellite-1 on December 14, 1966.

26.

In February 1967, two spherical pressure vessels were found in Mexico. One sphere was titanium with a diameter of 0.6 m and a mass of 30 kg; the other sphere had a diameter of 0.36 m.

Believed to be Parts from the upper stage or experiments associated with a U.S. Air Force Titan IIIC.

27.

In July 1967, a titanium sphere (diameter 0.6 m), a flat metal piece with bolts, and a titanium sphere (circumference 0.98 m) were found in Mexico.

Identified as parts from Agena target vehicle launched Nov. 11, 1966, in connection with Gemini XII mission.

28.

In September 1967, a spherical pressure vessel (diameter 0.6 m) was found in Saudi Arabia.

Identified as part of Delta booster used to launch Explorer 35 on July 19, 1967.

29.

In December 1967, a metal piece (1 x 1.8 m, mass 10 kg) was found in Finland.

Believed to be part of a Soviet vehicle.

30.

In February 1968, a metal fragment (1 x 3 m, mass 57.5 kg) and in June 1970 a metal sphere (diameter 0.9 m) were found in Colombia.

Identified as parts of lunar module descent stage used in Apollo V test mission, launched Jan. 22, 1968.

31.

In March 1968, a triangular cone-shaped piece (0.3 x 1.2 m, mass 10-15 kg) a metal disc (10-12 cm in diameter), and a small oval-shaped metal piece fell in the Gandaki Zone of Nepal.

Believed to be of Soviet origin.

32.

In April 1968, a metal sphere (diameter 0.6 m, mass 29 kg) was found near Mudgee, Australia.

Identified as pressure vessel from Delta booster used to launch Biosatellite-II on Sept. 7, 1967.

33.

In April 1968, several pieces of plastic material in panel sections (0.23 x 0.23 m) were found in Angola.

Identified as pieces of insulation from 3rd stage of Apollo VI booster, launched April 4, 1968.

34.

In August 1968, a metal sphere (diameter 0.71 m, mass 20 kg) was found in eastern Colombia.

Believed to be of U.S. origin.

35.

In September 1968, a spherical pressure vessel (diameter 0.37 m, mass 14.5 kg) was found near Nome, Alaska.

Identified as Soviet in origin.

36.

In June 1969, numerous fragments (about 10 kg each) fell on a Japanese freighter off De Kastri Fort USSR.

Pieces believed to be of Soviet origin.

37.

In July 1969, a small fragment (about 30 cm long) fell on the deck of a German ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Other pieces fell in the water near the ship.

Identified as debris from the first stage of the Saturn booster used to launch Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969.

38.

In September 1969, a metal pressure sphere (diameter 0.38 m, mass 13.8 kg) was found near Ostersound, Sweden.

Believed to be of Soviet origin.

39.

In December 1969, a cylindrical piece (about 1 m in diameter) washed ashore hear Marie Galante, Martinique.

Believed to be from the shroud of an Atlas booster that had been jettisoned in the designated ocean impact area.

40.

In April 1970, a metal fragment was found in the West Cape area of South Africa.

Believed to be part of Soviet spacecraft.

41.

In July 1970, a spherical pressure vessel was found near Lai, Chad.

Probably part of a Soviet vehicle.

42.

In August 1970, five oblong pieces of steel (0.6-0.8 m long, mass about 70 kg each) and one flat steel plate (1.2 x 1.2 m, mass 290 kg) fell in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Identified as parts from Soviet Cosmos 316, launched Dec. 23, 1969, which reentered August 28, 1970.

43.

In March and April 1971, three spherical pressure vessels were found in North Dakota.

Determined to be of U.S. origin.

44.

In April 1972, four titanium pressure spheres (diameter 0.38 m, mass 13.6 kg each) were found in an area near Ashburton, New Zealand. A fifth sphere was found six years later near Eiffelton, New Zealand.

Probably from Soviet Cosmos 482, launched March 31, 1972, part of which reentered April 2, 1972.

45.

In May 1972, numerous fragments fell on farmland about 75 miles north of London, England. The debris included a spherical titanium pressure vessel (diameter 0.3 m), circuit boards, and glass pieces forming a pie-shaped wedge (0.25 m edge).

Identified as debris from Gambit-3 No. 35 (Gambit 4335), launched May 20, 1972, which reentered the same day due to mission failure.

46.

In January 1978, numerous fragments fell in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The debris consisted largely of rods (2 x 10 cm, average mass 55 g), and cylinders (10 x 40 cm, mass 3.6 kg) constructed mostly from beryllium.

Identified as debris from Soviet Cosmos 954, launched Sept. 18, 1977, which reentered Jan. 24, 1978.

47.

In July 1979, numerous tanks, spheres, heat exchangers, and other debris fell over southwestern Australia, including towns of Esperance, Balladonna, and Rawlinna, and extending into central Australia.

Identified as debris from Skylab, launched May 14, 1973, which reentered July 11, 1979.

48.

In June 1988, a titanium pressure sphere (diameter 0.37 m) was found in region of Marble Bar, Australia.

Probably from Soviet Foton 4, launched April 14, 1988, reentered April 28, 1988.

49.

In February 1991, numerous fragments fell on and around the town of Capitan Bermudez, Argentina.

Identified as debris from Soviet Salyut 7/Cosmos 1686, launched April 19, 1982, which reentered Feb. 7, 1991.

50.

In December 1994, a metal plate (2.4 x 2.4 m, mass 20 kg) was found in Cosala, Mexico.

Probably from Russian Cosmos 2267, launched Nov. 5, 1993, and reentered Dec. 28, 1994.

51.

In January 1997, a steel propellant tank (1.7 x 2.7 m, mass 270 kg) landed near Georgetown, Texas. 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) landed near Seguin, Texas. A lightweight fragment of charred woven material (10 x 13 cm) struck a woman in Turley, Oklahoma. She was not injured.

Identified as debris from 2nd stage of Delta II booster, used to launch Midcourse Space Experiment on April 24, 1996. Stage reentered Jan. 22, 1997.

52.

In April 2000, 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) landed near Capetown, South Africa.

Identified as debris from 2nd stage of Delta II booster, used to launch GPS IIA-25 on March 28, 1996. Stage reentered April 27, 2000.

53.

In October 2000, a metal fragment (10 x 18 cm) was found near Wichita, Kansas.

Probably part of 4th-stage casing from Russian Proton booster, used to launch three Glonass navigation satellites on Oct. 13, 2000. The casing reentered on Oct. 14, 2000.

54.

In January 2001, a titanium rocket-motor casing (diameter 1.2 m, length 2 m, mass 70 kg) was found in Saudi Arabia, 240 km west of Riyadh.

Identified as debris from 3rd stage of Delta II booster used to launch GPS IIA-20 on May 13, 1993. Stage reentered Jan. 12, 2001.

55.

In March 2002, a titanium pressure sphere (diameter ~1 m, mass 49 kg) landed in a home in Kasambya, Uganda. No damage or injuries were reported.

Identified as debris from 3rd stage of Ariane 3 booster used to launch GStar 1 and Telecom 1B on May 8, 1985. Stage reentered March 27, 2002.

56.

In August 2002, a large sphere (diameter ~0.5 m, mass ~10 kg) landed near the village of Manzau, Angola.

Probably debris from 3rd stage of Ariane 4 booster used to launch Atlantic Bird 2 satellite on Sept. 25, 2001. Stage reentered August 11, 2002.

57.

In April 2003, a composite-overwrapped sphere landed on a farm near Mataquesquintla, Guatemala.

Probably debris from Centaur stage of Atlas IIAS booster used to launch Intelsat 806 satellite on Feb. 28, 1998. Stage reentered April 27, 2003.

58.

In January 2004, a titanium rocket-motor casing (diameter 1.2 m, length 2 m, mass 70 kg) was found near San Roque in Argentina.

Identified as debris from 3rd stage of Delta II booster used to launch GPS IIA-23 on Oct. 26, 1993. Stage reentered Jan. 20, 2004.

59.

In July 2004, a metal pressure sphere (diameter ~0.5 m, mass ~30 kg) landed near Cabeça da Vaca, Brazil. A metal fragment (length ~1 m) landed near Batalha, Brazil.

Probably debris from 2nd stage of Delta II booster, used to launch Mars Exploration Rover B (Opportunity) on July 8, 2003. Stage reentered July 25, 2004.

60.

In January 2005, a titanium rocket-motor casing (diameter ~1 m, length ~2 m) was found near Bangkok, Thailand.

Identified as debris from 3rd stage of Delta II booster used to launch GPS IIR-6 on Nov. 10, 2000. Stage reentered Jan. 13, 2005.

61.

In March 2008, a composite-overwrapped sphere (diameter ~0.5 m, mass ~10 kg) landed on a farm near Montividiu, Brazil.

Identified as debris from Centaur stage of Atlas V booster used to launch WGS-2(F1) satellite on Oct. 10, 2007. Stage reentered March 22, 2008.

62.

In July 2008, a metal rocket-motor casing was found in Australia.

Identified as debris from 3rd stage of Delta II booster used to launch INSAT-1D on June 12, 1990. Stage reentered Sept. 5, 1990.

63.

In February 2010, a steel propellant tank (1.7 x 2.7 m, mass 250 kg), and two titanium pressure spheres (diameter 0.6 m, mass 30 kg; diameter 0.4 m, mass 10 kg), landed in Mongolia.

Identified as debris from 2nd stage of Delta II booster, launched on Sept. 25, 2009. Stage reported to have reentered Feb. 19, 2010.

64.

In February 2011, several metal objects were found in Malawi.

Probably debris from 3rd stage of GSLV booster used to launch INSAT-4CR on Sept. 2, 2007. Stage reentered Feb. 7, 2011.

65.

In March 2011, a titanium rocket-motor casing (diameter ~1 m, length ~2 m) was found near Artigas, Uruguay.

Identified as debris from 3rd stage of Delta II booster used to launch GPS IIR-10 on Dec. 21, 2003. Stage reentered March 3, 2011.

66.

In March 2011, a metallic sphere (diameter ~0.76 m, mass ~36 kg) was found near Baggs, Wyoming.

Probably a helium pressure tank from 2nd stage of Zenit 3F booster, launched Jan. 20, 2011, reentered March 19, 2011.

67.

 In February 2012 a metallic sphere (diameter ~0.7 m, mass ~30 kg) was found near Mata Roma, Brazil.

Probably a helium pressure tank from 3rd stage of Ariane 4 booster. Launched Thaicom 3 and BSat 1a on 16 April 1997, reentered 22 February 2012.

68.

In March 2013, two metallic spheres (diameter ~0.35 m, mass ~7.3 kg) were found near Buna, Texas.

Probably helium pressure tanks from 3rd stage of Long March 4B booster, launched May 10, 2012, reentered February 27, 2013.

69.

In July 2013, a propellant tank was found near Ngezi, Zimbabwe.

Probably from 2nd stage of a Delta booster used to launch Symphonie 2 on Aug. 27, 1975. Stage reentered Jul. 14, 2013.