November 6, 2017

UPDATE: Mysterious Aircraft Piece that Washed
Ashore in October Tentatively Identified


The mysterious piece of aircraft that washed ashore in southern Hatteras village in early October may have finally been identified.

The piece, which measured approximately 15’ x 9’, washed up on the beach on October 8 just north of ORV Ramp 55, and was removed from the beach by Jarvis Towing on Sunday night and transported to the Buxton Ranger Station. At that point, NPS officials contacted NASA and the Air Force to see if it could be identified.

Foam-like debris that may have been associated with the debris continued to wash ashore for several days after the large aircraft component arrived, and the massive piece made waves on social media, thanks to images by local photographer Erin Everlee. These images and reports eventually reached a company called SpaceX, which manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft, and which contacted the National Park Service to confirm that the piece belonged to them.

It is now believed that the large piece is part of a rocket created by SpaceX, and is a portion of the protective nose or the fairing that pulls away after a rocket leaves the atmosphere, per a recent report from the Virginia Pilot.

SpaceX provides rockets that carry supplies to the International Space Station, and the company has a launch station on the East Coast in Florida. It is possible that the piece came from the March 2017 launch of a SpaceX vessel from Cape Canaveral, although this has not been definitively determined.

For now, the large piece remains in Buxton waiting to be picked up by SpaceX personnel.  The piece washed up after a month of September storms that brought high waves and winds to Hatteras Island.

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