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  Metallic space ball (tank) falls in Namibia

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Author Topic:   Metallic space ball (tank) falls in Namibia
Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 12-23-2011 06:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Metallic space ball falls in Namibia

Falling space debris made headlines (AFP) this week after a "metallic space ball" found in Namibia, Africa was determined to be made of a "metal alloy known to man."
The hollow ball with a circumference of 1.1 metres was found near a village in the north of the country some 750 kilometres from the capital Windhoek, according to police forensics director Paul Ludik.

Locals had heard several small explosions a few days beforehand, he said.

With a diameter of 35 centimeters, the ball has a rough surface and appears to consist of "two halves welded together".

NASA and the European Space Agency were contacted and while the metal ball's specific origin (i.e. spacecraft) hasn't been determined, it has been recognized as a propulsion tank — "a tank that held fuel for rocket thrusters on a spacecraft."

According to Scott Hull, an orbital debris engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, the tank is "probably titanium, since it has no discernible rust or burn-through spots."

"Tanks like this survive reentry relatively frequently," he said.
Indeed, a quick search of the internet turns up several similar tanks that were found in southern Africa, Australia and Latin America over the past two decades.

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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posted 12-23-2011 07:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rather then being a propulsion tank that held fuel, this strikes me as more likely a high pressure reservoir used to supply pressurization gas (nitrogen or helium) to a propellant tank.

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 12-24-2011 02:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am thinking ullage tank myself as well (helium or nitrogen). Interesting find.

Question is, which space launcher are these from? I don't know if US manufacturers would be utilizing titanium in expendible rocket stages (satellite tanks maybe, but that IS a big sphere), but since Russia is a source for some of the highest grade titanium in the world, I have to wonder if they are Russian made.

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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posted 12-24-2011 07:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Delta second stage has incorporated tanks of this design for quite some time.

James Brown
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posted 12-24-2011 11:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for James Brown   Click Here to Email James Brown     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I suppose NASA wants it back?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-24-2011 11:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not necessarily; when UARS fell, NASA's orbital debris program stated that since there wasn't much to be learned from tanks such as this (as a number have been recovered and the conditions of their survival is understood), that they didn't have a specific desire to study such debris.

If the U.S. (rather than NASA in particular) requested return of the debris, it would be to protect public safety, and then it would be required to cover any of the costs associated with collecting and transporting the debris.

Of course, that assumes the debris is of U.S. origin, which hasn't been determined (based on the latest media reports).

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 12-24-2011 11:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SpaceAholic:
Rather then being a propulsion tank that held fuel...
Over at Gawker, one commenter has suggested that based on its size, the debris is "likely a 39-liter hydrazine bladder tank," as made by Astrium for the Ariane 5.

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-24-2011 12:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The reported tank diameter is different - reentered object has a diameter of 35cm (14 inches) while the hydrazine tank is 48cm (almost 19 inches).

AstronautBrian
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From: Madisonville, Louisiana, U.S.A.
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 12-24-2011 02:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AstronautBrian   Click Here to Email AstronautBrian     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is obviously a Martian lemon. Case closed.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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From: Toms River, NJ,USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 12-24-2011 04:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Whatever it is, I'm sure it can be used as source material for acrylics....

gliderpilotuk
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From: London, UK
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posted 12-25-2011 08:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Probably hear the bang from here when the blowtorch lights the contents!

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 12-25-2011 10:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If it is indeed a hydrazine tank, it is not too smart to be touching it considering the toxic nature of the stuff.

I've seen a Delta tank up close and usually when they come back, they tend to look a littler darker than this (although different specific reentry conditions can probably account for the visible appearance of the debris once it lands).

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 12-26-2011 08:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Delta II Second Stage pressurization and purge tanks.

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