April 19, 2024


Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX lost both launch vehicles in Starship’s first two test flights. Now, debris from those explosions is now fetching four-figure sums online, and SpaceX has taken a lax stance on recovering its spacecraft.

While Starship is known for exploding and its evocative stainless steel exterior, the rocket’s underside is covered in a heat shield composed of 18,000 black silica-based hexagonal tiles. The reusable tiles are designed to withstand temperatures over 2,500 degrees, so they were bound to survive intact when the rockets blew up. Futurism reports:

One eBay seller told Futurism that they found a tile leftover from the company’s latest launch attempt “floating in the water near the end of the jetties on South Padre Island.”

SpaceX “thanked me for the information and said I could ship the pieces to them or keep them,” the user told Futurism, after notifying the company’s “debris reporting hotline and email.”

“I chose to keep them,” they added.

“I counted five pieces recovered by three of us,” they wrote. “There were some small pieces, but I could not reach them. We weren’t really actively searching for the pieces, just trying to catch fish when they floated by.”

The website found that tiles were sold on eBay for up to $7,500. The tiles themselves have no material value and are primarily memorabilia. While SpaceX is a successful business with huge contracts with NASA, the company has yet to achieve any of the ambitious feats that national space programs are remembered for and that Musk laid out for the company. I’m not saying these tiles shouldn’t be sought after, but get back to me when SpaceX gets to Mars.

The third time was the charm for Starship. The prototype reached space during its third test flight earlier this month. However, the vehicle broke up while re-entering the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean.

A version of this article originally appeared on Jalopnik.



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