Debris found on the shore in Manzanilla on Sunday. Photo courtesy the Civil Aviation Authority of Trinidad and Tobago.

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Debris in Manzanilla identified as Russian rocket

...it's not part of an airplane

By SUSAN MOHAMMED susan.mohammed@trinidadexpress.com

The Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) today disclosed a report on the investigation into the debris found in Manzanilla earlier this week, which some thought came from a crashed airplane. However, the debris has been identified as coming from a SOYUZ ST rocket that took an unmanned space observatory into orbit last December. The following is the report of the TTCAA -

INTRODUCTION:

On the morning of March 18th 2014 the TTCAA received a telephone call from the Manzanilla Police Station of possible wreckage that had washed up on the Manzanilla coast in the area of the 67.5Km marker in the Cocal district. A TTCAA investigative team consisting of Francis Regis Executive Manager Safety Regulations, Courtney Greene Avsec Inspector and Kingsley Herreira Manager Licensing, responded to the call and proceeded to Manzanilla. Upon reaching the site we saw the wreckage on the beach. Present on the scene were police officers, media and Sangre Grande Regional Corporation personnel.

OBSERVATION:
- The wreckage was of a partial cylinder concave side up
- The material of the wreckage was of a composite nature comprising an aluminium honeycomb structure mated to a carbon-fibre and plastic covering. On the inside was a foam material covered in a plastic sheeting.
- On one end there was an hydraulic arm and a spring loaded hinge-type object
- On turning over the wreckage some faded markings, image and letters were observed
- Some marine growth observed
- Some vent-type holes observed
- Red reflectors

INVESTIGATION:
The wreckage appeared to be similar to other debris that had washed ashore on previous occasions and of which the TTCAA has a large piece in its possession. An online search was carried out mainly on the European Space Agency (ESA) website and the ESA's Arianespace website. The ESA uses its Kourou launch site off Cayenne for most of its launches. The two main launch vehicles used at Kourou are the Ariane 5 and the Soyuz ST. Both vehicles consists of multi-stage rocket engines and fuel tanks appropriately encapsulated and topped by the payload. The usual payload launched by Arianespace are satellites. The satellites payloads are protected by a fairing. This fairing protects the satellite from frictional forces and noise on its passage through Earth¡¦s atmosphere. On the exit of Earth¡¦s atmosphere the fairings are opened to expose the satellite. The fairings are jettisoned back to the surface, normally the sea. The South Equatorial current runs from the mid South Atlantic Ocean along the northeastern coast of South America and into the Caribbean Sea . Fairing debris carried along by the South Equatorial Current has previously washed ashore on the Trinidad and Guyana coasts. The user manuals for both the
Ariane 5 and Soyuz ST launch vehicles were used in conjunction with photographs of the wreckage in the investigation

CONCLUSIONS:
The composite materials and markings are not consistent with any known aircraft. The wreckage that washed ashore at Manzanilla is not that of an aircraft. The wreckage appears to be fairing debris from a Soyuz ST launch vehicle. This debris sometimes washes ashore a few months after a launch. A Soyuz ST was launched on December 19th 2013, payload was the GAIA an unmanned space observatory.
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