An Intact Item of Space Debris with an Exposure Age of About 10 Years


R. D. Lorenz; W. Zeitschel (1999), JBIS52, 439-442

Refcode: 1999.52.439

We document an artifact found on an Australian beach that appears to be a gas tank from a Soviet spacecraft. Comparison of its microcrater size distribution with those from surfaces on the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) suggests the object spent around a decade in space, consistent with lifetimes of Molniya satellites that entered around 1990, although this is not an ironclad identification of the source spacecraft type. Entry simulations of objects with similarly low mass/area ratio indicates that temperatures of no more than 1800K are likely: the Titanium alloy from which the object is made would have undergone minimal melting, consistent with the slight fusion observed.