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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

NASA confirms space junk that hit Florida home came from space station

A recovered piece of metal from the NASA flight support equipment used to mount International Space Station batteries on a cargo pallet in 2021. It survived reentry through Earth's atmosphere on March 8 and hit a home in Naples, Florida.   (Handout/NASA/TNS)
By Richard Tribou Orlando Sentinel

NASA completed analysis of an object that hit a Florida home in March and determined it was the remains of debris released from the International Space Station two years earlier.

In an update to the agency’s website, NASA said the hand-sized chunk of metal came from a pallet of nickel hydride batteries that were jettisoned from the ISS in March 2021 after new lithium-ion batteries arrived to the station.

The debris that hit the home in Naples weighed less than 2 pounds, and was determined to be a stanchion that was part of the support equipment in space used to mount the batteries onto the cargo pallet.

The entire pallet weighed about 5,800 pounds and NASA expected its entirety to burn up on reentry.

In cooperation with the homeowner, NASA obtained the remaining piece that struck the home on March 8 and analyzed it at Kennedy Space Center.

“As part of the analysis, NASA completed an assessment of the object’s dimensions and features compared to the released hardware and performed a materials analysis,” the NASA update reads. “Based on the examination, the agency determined the debris to be a stanchion from the NASA flight support equipment used to mount the batteries on the cargo pallet. The object is made of the metal alloy Inconel, weighs 1.6 pounds, is 4 inches in height and 1.6 inches in diameter.”

To ensure a similar debris incident doesn’t happen in the future, NASA said ISS teams will do a detailed investigation of the jettison and reentry analysis of this event so that it can update future modeling.

“NASA specialists use engineering models to estimate how objects heat up and break apart during atmospheric reentry,” NASA posted in its update. “These models require detailed input parameters and are regularly updated when debris is found to have survived atmospheric reentry to the ground.”

Debris from cast-off launch rocket stages and deorbiting hardware remains a threat if it makes it to ground.

“NASA remains committed to responsibly operating in low-Earth orbit, and mitigating as much risk as possible to protect people on Earth when space hardware must be released,” NASA stated.