Starship rocket debris is now being traded online

SpaceX's Starship rocket is still in development, after three initial unsuccessful launches. — AFP Relaxnews

A flourishing new business is emerging on the Internet involving the resale of tiles from the heat shield of SpaceX's Starship launcher, several models of which have exploded after lift-off. The tiles are reportedly selling for several thousand dollars.

While the first two Starship launches resulted in explosions occurring moments after lift-off, the third was able to fly around the globe. However, the rocket disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere over the ocean. Surprising as it may seem, some people in the US have gone in search of the debris and are selling it online, via the eBay auction platform.

Originally, the anthracite-black hexagonal tiles being sold online were designed to resist temperature changes as they re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. Those miraculously found by Internet users are now selling for several thousand dollars online.

Some of the tiles offered for sale are seriously damaged, while others are in surprisingly good condition. Most of those offered on eBay sell for between US$1,000 (RM4,733) and US$3,000 (RM14,199).

For those who doubt the credibility of these listings, the sellers seek to reassure in their product listings. For example, one ad reads: "100% authentic Whole Complete Starship Heat Shield tile found from either launch 2 or 3. Very rare full heat shield with Hardware inside. I received this from a credible source who searches after every launch on both US and Mexico sides."

Another ad reads: "I found this heat tile from Starship 24 on my SpaceX Starship heat tile search Adventure in 2023. This heat tile is a long hex pin on type. These are much more rare than the standard hex. This one was found at Tepehuajes beach, Mexico. This tile is in very good condition. Own a piece of Starship and space exploration history."

Aside from the question of whether these are genuine tiles being offered for sale, this online trade is likely to displease SpaceX, which would prefer to be able to collect them in order to assess their condition and reinforce them for future Starship launches.

Indeed, one day Nasa could use these rockets to send its next astronauts to the Moon. – AFP Relaxnews

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