Engineer says piece of Indian rocket found on Green Head beach could be 20 years old
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Authorities have removed an object, which an expert believes could be from a 20-year-old Indian rocket, after it washed up on a Western Australian beach.
The canister had washed up on a beach at Green Head, 250 kilometres north of Perth, on Sunday.
On Tuesday evening, the object was wrapped in plastic and lifted up by a front end loader before being driven to a locked storage facility. 
European Space Agency engineer Andrea Boyd said experts believed the item fell from an Indian rocket launching a satellite. 
"We're pretty sure based on the shape and the size, it is an upper-stage engine from an Indian rocket that's used for a lot of different missions," she said. 
"[India] has been using them since the 90s and they've launched more than 50 missions.
"Based on the amount of barnacles, it's probably not the one from this year."
She said it could be 20 years old.
"But at the same time, when it gets thrown around the ocean it does tend to look older than it would normally." 
Ms Boyd said the engine was designed to fall off after launch. 
"It takes a lot of effort to get up to orbit, so the first and second and third stage [engines] usually fall off and end up in the Indian Ocean, so it's probably come from that with the currents and washed up on the beach," she said. 
Ms Boyd said it was the responsibility of the owner to dispose of the object safely. 
"There is a United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and they have an outer space treaty that everyone has signed saying that whoever launches something into space is responsible for it right until the very end," she said.
"The Australian Space Agency is looking into it and they are talking to our friends at the Indian Space Agency to try and collaborate on cleaning this up properly."
WA Police has released a statement saying it is continuing to liaise with national agencies, including the Australian Space Agency, to identify the object and its origin.
"WA Police Force has commenced discussions with several state agencies and the Shire of Coorow in relation to the planned safe movement and storage of the object, which will factor in additional precautions given the unknown origin of the object," it said.
Ms Boyd described Western Australia as a "lucky spot" for space junk, and it's removal was taken more seriously than in the past. 
"When the Sky Lab piece of space station fell in Western Australia, the WA government sent a fine for littering to NASA," she said.
"I don't think NASA took it that seriously because they didn't pay it … but then a radio station paid the fine on behalf of NASA."
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Chemistry Centre of WA examined the object and found it posed no risk to the community. 
But Ms Boyd said it was important people did not touch the object. 
"It might still have some residual fuel and you just don't want to get people touching that," she said. 
WA Premier Roger Cook said the object could end up at the WA Museum.
"I did make the observation this morning that perhaps this will be an addition to the Sky Lab pieces that we have in the museum and might add to our growing collection of space debris that seems to be collecting in WA," he said.
Anyone who finds more debris should contact the Australian Space Agency.
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