HANFORD — A piece of a satellite that re-entered earth’s atmosphere was found in an orchard Saturday in Kings County, Kings County Sheriff's officials said.
Around 11:30 a.m., Kings County deputies said they were dispatched to the area of Eighth and Houston avenues in Hanford regarding a large metal object that was located in a walnut orchard by the orchard’s owner.
Initially, officials said it was unknown exactly what the object was. Detectives reached out to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, home of the 30th Space Wing, and said they learned the object was likely a fuel tank from a communications satellite owned by mobile satellite communications company Iridium.
After reaching out to Iridium, deputies said a representative from Iridium responded to the Kings County Sheriff's Office where the tank was being stored.
They said the Iridium representative identified the tank as being a hydrazine fuel tank that used to be attached to a communications satellite owned and operated by the company.
Officials said the representative identified the tank as coming from Iridium Satellite #70. This particular satellite was launched into space sometime late 1997 or early 1998 and was in a low-earth orbit until it eventually entered earth's atmosphere, he said, adding the purpose of this tank was to store fuel used to change the orbit of the satellite in space.
Authorities said this particular tank was positively identified due to various governmental agencies tracking space debris. According to the Iridium representative, this tank is the first piece recovered from an Iridium satellite that re-entered earth's atmosphere and will be closely examined.
The tank was turned over to Iridium. Further information can be obtained by contacting Iridium at (480) 752-1173.