Rocket part found on Outer Banks beach belongs to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, park confirms

This is the 10-foot by 6-foot chunk of rocket found on Ocracoke Sunday by two tourists.
This is the 10-foot by 6-foot chunk of rocket found on Ocracoke Sunday by two tourists.

Elon Musk’s rocket building company SpaceX has confirmed a large chunk of debris found Sunday on an Outer Banks beach is a part of one of its rockets.

The National Park Service, which manages the beach where the debris was found, told the Charlotte Observer that SpaceX confirmed its suspicions about the 10-foot by 6-foot piece of metal Monday afternoon.

“It is a ‘rocket hardware’,” said an email from Chief Ranger Boone Vandzura of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. “It’s being handled appropriately.”

SpaceX told the Charlotte Observer the piece is from a Falcon 9 rocket. This year, it has launched 12 rockets from east coast launch pads at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a SpaceX spokesman said.

The company also issued a statement Tuesday about the discovery.

“SpaceX is working with the local authorities to recover the piece of hardware,” said the release. “Thanks to the advances we’ve made in reusability, SpaceX is the only company capable of recovering our rocket boosters and spacecraft.”

It’s the second time in 12 months that a piece of a SpaceX rocket has been found on an Outer Banks beach; the first instance was reported last October by the Virginian-Pilot.

The Virginian-Pilot reported at the time that a 15-foot-long section of a SpaceX rocket was found on a beach near Hatteras Village. It was identified by the newspaper as part of the rocket’s jettisoned nose cone.

The piece discovered Sunday was found on Ocracoke Island by Chris Charlton and his wife, Angie Chris Langdon, of Currituck. The couple told the Charlotte Observer they saw it near Ramp 67, a popular tourist site within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Flip side of the rocket part. Angie Chris Langdon

The National Park Service told the Charlotte Observer it sent inquiries to the U.S. Coast Guard and SpaceX for help identifying the sheet of metal, which has serial numbers on it.

SpaceX “designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft,” according to the company’s web site.

National Park Service officials said the rocket section was so large and heavy that a front-end loader was needed to haul it off the beach to a storage site.

The couple who found it speculate it may have been pushed ashore last week by storm surge from Tropical Storm Michael, which brought flooding to coastal counties and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Tropical storms and hurricanes often push debris ashore in the Carolinas.

A collection of World War II armor-piercing projectiles and bullets was found by a volunteer firefighter on Topsail Island the first weekend of October, reported the Charlotte Observer.

He believed Hurricane Florence washed the projectiles onto the beach. None of the objects were found to be explosive.

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Mark Price: 704-358-5149, @markprice_obs