average, one non-functional spacecraft, launch vehicle orbital stage, or other piece of cataloged debris has fallen back to Earth every day for more than 40 years. The majority of these objects do not survive the intense reentry environment. For the minority which do survive in whole or in part, most fall harmlessly into the oceans or onto sparsely populated regions such as Siberia, the Australian Outback, or the Canadian Tundra. Occasionally, components of spacecraft and launch vehicles are found. Shown below are examples of objects recovered since 1997 in Texas, Saudi Arabia, and South
the main propellant tank of the second stage
of a Delta 2 launch vehicle which landed near
Georgetown, TX, on 22 January 1997. This approximately
250 kg tank is primarily a stainless steel structure
and survived reentry relatively intact.
On 21 January
2001, a Delta 2 third stage, known as a PAM-D
(Payload Assist Module - Delta), reentered the
atmosphere over the Middle East. The titanium
motor casing of the PAM-D, weighing about 70
kg, landed in Saudi Arabia about 240 km from
the capital of Riyadh.
kg titanium pressurant tank survived the
reentry of the Delta 2 second stage on 22 January
1997 also, but was found farther downrange near Seguin,