SpaceX did not return a request for comment, and typically does not interact with news media.
According to NASA’s statement, SpaceX also confirmed the debris is likely to be a part of the Dragon’s trunk. The trunk provides electricity and other necessary services to the main capsule during its time in orbit but is discarded as the main capsule slices back through the thick upper atmosphere on its way home.
“The trunk segment … typically burns up in the atmosphere over the open ocean posing minimal risk to public safety,” according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration, which licenses and oversees commercial spaceflight operations in the United States.
“In this case, it likely remained in orbit for more than one year and some pieces of trunk hardware survived to reach the Earth,” the FAA statement reads.
The Crew-1 astronauts — comprised of NASA’s Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut with Japan’s space agency — made a safe return aboard the main portion of the capsule, which splashed down off the coast of Florida before Being hauled to safety by nearby recovery ships last year.
Members of the public that believe they may have found a piece of space debris can reach out to SpaceX’s recovery hotline at 1-866-623-0234 or at email@example.com.
Typically, discarded pieces of space hardware fall to a watery grave in the ocean. But they do sometimes turn up on land.
SpaceX does not attempt to recover the second stage of its rockets, though it does land, refurbish and refly most of its first-stage rocket boosters, which are the largest part of the rocket and give the initial boost at liftoff. Dragon capsules ride to orbit sitting atop the rockets.