Re: GPS 2-25 Delta 2 rocket crash South Africa

From: Greg Roberts (
Date: Sat May 06 2000 - 02:10:06 PDT

  • Next message: Alan Pickup: "Decay watch: 2000 May 6 #1"

    Hi All and especially Alan
    Ive been following with interest the discussion re the re-entry of the above
    object over Southern Africa on
    27 April and might be able to add a little to it.
    Alan is correct - there was only one re-entry on the 27th - the report of
    another one the following day is incorrect.
    My involvement with this subject is as follows:
    On Friday 28th I received a phonecall from Dr.Chris Koen of the
    S.A.Astronomical Observatory saying that they had received a report of
    something landing. As I used to deal with satellites and related matters
    whilst still employed at the Observatory as an astronomer until my
    retirement 6 months ago , Chris wanted to know if I could shed any light on
    the subject and would I deal with the press. At the time I did not know what
    the candidate was but said it was probably part of a satellite and "no- my
    name and telephone number was not to be given to the press".
    Two days later I received another phone call from Dr.Dave Laney, also of the
    SAAO with a report that another object had landed the next day and did I
    know anything. In the meantime I had consulted Alan Pickups Decay Watch and
    said that the object of the 27th April was probably object 23834 96-19B GPS
    2-25 Delta 2 rocket
    and so informed Dave. I then said the only re-entries for the 28th were
    Pegasus debri and I didnt think they fitted. Again I was asked to handle the
    press and again I said " no way".
    On the 2nd May I received a call from Case Rijsdijk of SAAO asking what I
    knew about the re-entry - looks like there isnt much inter-communication at
    SAAO :-) and again I was asked if I would like to deal with the press-
    again I said "no " (  anybody guessed by now I dont like talking to the
    press ?)
    Anyway yesterday I received another phonecall from SAAO from Willie Koorts
    who informed me that the Observatory now had several pieces from the
    re-entry and was I interested in seeing them, so I went to the
    Observatory and got some more info.
    Firstly there was only one re-entry and that of the 27th. It would appear
    that at least 4 pieces landed in a line stretching between Cape Town and the
    vicinity of Worcester, a smallish town about 45 miles east of Cape Town. The
    best estimate I have of the time of re-entry was around 13:30 UT. The
    Observatory has three of the  pieces :
    (1) large metal tank approximately 8 feet or so long ( I didnt measure ),
    and diameter about 6 feet. It is in very good condition and only had a few
    dents and several small tears  in the wall of the tank. The walls are very
    thin and the entire structure is very light. At one end appears to be where
    a motor may have been attached- I am not familiar with the outlay of the
    Delta rocket so its all speculation. This part of the tank is in excellant
    condition and the screws that must have held something else to the tank
    could be easily unscrewed and were undamaged.
    (2) nozzle - aprroximately 18 inches diameter by about 2 feet - again in
    reasonably good shape and the nozzle throat showed relately little damage
    from the initial rocket burn. It appeared to be made up of a fibreglass like
    substance .
    (3) a large metal sphere about 3 feet in diameter - this I did not see as it
    was being collected from the crash site as I visited the observatory. This
    could have been a pressurization tank.
    (4) I understand there may be a fourth piece but I have no further
    The Observatory is planning to keep these items to put on in their Public
    Display centre when it is constructed.
    in due course.
    Since Case has been travelling around the coutryside collecting the bits and
    pieces ( I understand the police
    delived the tank to the observatory ) he will be the best person to contact
    for actual sites were the objects were recovered from. In addition he
    probably now has more information than myself. His email address is  and he is the Public Educations Officer at SAAO. I also saw
    some photographs of the tank and nozzle sitting in the mechanical workshop
    at SAAO so these may be available and probably may even be now on the SAAO
    web site.
    Hope this helps
    Greg Roberts
    Retired astronomer and a dodger of the press
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