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8 May, 2009 07:46

Rocket fragment hits building in Siberia… or did it?

Residents of a village in Siberia say a fragment of rocket hit their house on Thursday night, but the Russian space agency is sceptical about the report.

A metal plate with the size of approximately 120 cm by 35 cm was found in the village of Baranovka in Altai region in Siberia. The local emergency service suggested it was a piece from Soyuz-U rocket, which boosted cargo spacecraft Progress M-02M from Baikonur cosmodrome on Thursday night.

There are conflicting reports on where the plate was found. RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS report the piece was on the roof of a two-story residential building, which was not damaged by it. Interfax says it was found in the yard of a local resident. No one was hurt in the incident.

Meanwhile, the Russian space agency Roskosmos doubts the claim of the residents that the discovered part was from Soyuz.

“Whether it is true or not will be determined on site by a special commission,” said the agency’s spokesman Aleksandr Vorobyov.

He believes the plate may have been found elsewhere and planted on the roof, citing the lack of reported damage as evidence.

He added the village is far from the area where used stages of the Soyuz rocket dropped, which also casts doubt on the theory.

The RIA Novosti agency also quotes local authorities as saying that the metal piece was not corroded in a way corresponding to the highly toxic liquid rocket fuel used in Soyuz rockets, and was probably a fragment of another booster.

Pavel Sharov, editor of Space News magazine, says every time a space ship goes up, part of the rocket that carries it falls on the ground but only onto the special drop area. Sometimes, however, debris may fall onto different areas and this can be dangerous for people.

Altai residents have a long-standing grudge toward Baikonur launches, blaming on them their health problems and environmental damage in the area. In one case last year, two farmers sought 30,000 euros in compensation from space authorities.

Roskosmos alleges that some people try to turn suing over rocket rubbish incidents into a profitable business.