26 Jul 2012

US rocket booster washes up on Marshalls atoll

2:19 pm on 26 July 2012

A booster rocket from an airborne launch from the US Army's missile testing range at Kwajalein in June has washed up at Mili Atoll, prompting the Marshall Islands government to ask the United States government to remove the large object.

The stage one motor from the Pegasus rocket that propelled NASA's NuSTAR satellite into orbit more than a month ago was expected to sink when it fell back to Earth from an altitude of nearly 70 kilometres.

The booster rocket was attached to a jet aircraft that took off from Kwajalein for the highly publicised launch of the sophisticated research satellite that is being used by NASA to study black holes in space.

The US army says the stage one motor is a solid rocket booster that propels the Pegasus to about 60,000 metres then burns out and falls as planned into the ocean and normally sinks upon splashdown.