HomeNewsArticle Display

Delta II rocket motor recovered in Thailand

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- A Boeing Delta II rocket lifts off from here June 23 carrying a replacement satellite for the Air Force's Global Positioning System into orbit.  The Delta II is a three-stage launch vehicle.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Carleton Bailie)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- A Boeing Delta II rocket lifts off from here June 23 carrying a replacement satellite for the Air Force's Global Positioning System into orbit. The Delta II is a three-stage launch vehicle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Carleton Bailie)

Los Angeles Air Force Base -- The journey started Nov. 10, 2000, aboard a Delta II rocket carrying a GPS satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station into orbit.

The Star-48 rocket motor, which is connected to the satellite until the motor is done firing, completed its mission and began orbiting the Earth. The titanium rocket motor casing reentered Earth's atmosphere Jan. 13, 2005. The motor landed in the rural province of Chachoengsa, Thailand (about 100 km east of Bangkok), and reportedly bounced approximately 200 meters. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries or damages. Shortly thereafter, the local Thai police recovered the debris, and Thai government officials shortly began making plans to put the debris in a museum. However, the U.S. Department of State and its embassy staff in Bangkok began negotiations with Thai officials to recover the rocket motor and have it returned to the United States for reentry orbit analysis.

1st Lt. Cassandra Putman, Delta II Propulsion and Ordnance Office, took charge in getting the debris returned to the Space and Missle Systems Center. Local Pacific Air Forces reservist, Maj. Mike Zellmer, who has logistics experience in Thailand, contacted the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Thailand, and advised them of the situation. The cooperation with JUSMAGTHAI was the catalyst that set the recovery and movement efforts back to the United States in motion.

JUSMAGTHAI coordinated all transfer agreements with the Thai government and arranged movement of the debris back to the United States while Lt Putman managed and monitored the recovery effort from here at SMC.

Just as the debris was being manifested and load-planned for an Air Mobility Command mission back to U.S. soil, the Thai government was hit with a political coup. However, the coup proved to be relatively benign to the recovery mission there and the debris was airlifted after a short hiatus.

The Air Mobility Command flight from Thailand to Travis AFB, Calif., took almost five days. Upon arrival at Travis AFB, Lieutenant Putman took possession of the debris. It is now located at The Aerospace Corporation facility in El Segundo, Calif., where it will be analyzed to determine reentry heating environments in order to improve forecast models associated with the breakup of debris entering Earth's atmosphere. A list of other debris that has been recovered can be found online at http://www.reentrynews.com/recovered.html.