On its way to splashdown with four astronauts, SpaceX Crew Dragon “Resilience” lost some of its parts.
The outer panels were deliberately dropped to reveal and deploy the parachutes that lowered the capsule for safe landing in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida on Sunday (May 2). Doors and brake parachutes, closed by one of them, fell into the water separately from the Dragon, while SpaceX focused on restoration of the spacecraft and its crew…
Despite their possible appearance, the panels have been discarded and remain the property of SpaceX as approved by the Florida Legislature. The bill was received on April 26, not only assigns fines for storing any found spaceship partsbut requires all finds to be reported to local authorities.
“Space debris recovery is an increasingly common problem in Florida. The return of these materials is necessary to assess the safety and performance of the vehicle, ”said State Spokesman Tyler Sirois, author of the Space Objects Restoration Act.
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The bill confirms that commercial space companies such as SpaceX, along with other organizations involved in launching rockets and spacecraft, retain ownership of their equipment even after the mission is completed. It requires anyone who discovers “reasonably identifiable” parts of a spacecraft to report them to local law enforcement, and then authorities make “reasonable efforts” to notify the owner of the equipment.
The law also allows a company (or other legal entity) to enter into private property if necessary to return parts.
Anyone who fails to turn in the parts found could be charged with “misappropriation of space assets,” a first-degree misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year in prison or a $ 1,000 fine. Violators may also be ordered to pay compensation to the owner if the equipment is damaged or cannot be repaired.
The bill, which has received support from SpaceX, is now awaiting the signature of the governor. Once adopted, the law will enter into force on July 1, 2021.
“As Florida continues to lead the commercial aerospace industry, our laws must evolve in response to the growing and unique demands of the industry,” Sirois said.
Florida became the first state to pass a space debris protection law. Previously, restoring parts of a spacecraft was subject to the terms of an international treaty or federal laws relating to theft of government property, the latter being applied if the vehicle was owned by NASA or the military.
The Outer Space Treaty, or “The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,” entered into force in 1967. Among its provisions is that the parties to the treaty: which includes the United States, retains ownership of their spacecraft “and their component parts”, regardless of where they are (“in outer space or on a celestial body or after their return to Earth “).
The Outer Space Treaty has in the past resulted in the return of space equipment, including fairings for commercial rockets, after they were found washed ashore or near inland and overseas coasts.
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SpaceX has lobbied for the passage of Florida’s Space Assets Act after at least two incidents in which Dragon parts were found on state residents. In January 2020, a group of fishermen off the coast of Daytona Beach stumbled upon two drag parachutes and an associated hatch from a SpaceX capsule that was used for an in-flight interruption test. Eight months later, another fishing vessel in the Gulf of Mexico discovered a panel of first Crew Dragon to return astronauts from the International Space Station in August 2020.
In at least one of these cases, the commission got into private space memorabilia collection owned by investor SpaceX.
IN The bill “Return of space assets” applies not only to SpaceX, its panels and parachutes. The legislation applies to any “crewed and uncrewed capsules, launch vehicles, parachutes and other landing aids, as well as any ancillary equipment that has been attached to the launch vehicle during launch, orbit or re-entry into the atmosphere.” Residents of Florida, who discovered the details, were instructed to “report the description and location of the space object to law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over the location.”
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