Officials issue warning about debris from failed SpaceX launch

Falcon 9 explodes over Atlantic, but debris could wash ashore

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explosion -- the first at Cape Canaveral in 15 years -- took place outside Brevard County airspace, but potentially hazardous debris could wash ashore, officials said.

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The Patrick Air Force Base said if debris washes ashore, it would be on beaches north of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"The anomaly occurred over the Atlantic Ocean, and as a result of tide movement over the next several hours, debris may begin washing ashore," Patrick Air Force Base officials said.  "If you spot debris in the water or see it washed up anywhere along the eastern Florida shore, report it to either NASA's debris reporting hotline at 321-867-2121 or Patrick Air Force Base at 321-494-7001 or contact your nearest local law enforcement official."

Officials said debris should not be picked up, nor should cellphone calls be made nearby.

"Gather all information that clearly identifies its location, but only do so after leaving the area," officials said.  "Some of the debris may be toxic or explosive in nature and may be potentially hazardous, which is why it needs to be reported to and handled by trained professionals."

Authorities said all debris is considered part of an official investigation.

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The failed launch and subsequent explosion of the SpaceX rocket was the first accident to take place after liftoff from Cape Canaveral since the October 20, 1998, explosion that destroyed a Boeing Delta III rocket about 72 seconds into flight.

The SpaceX rocket had cleared the Brevard County coastline after 65 seconds, Walker said.

National Weather Service officials in Melbourne said radar echoes of a debris cloud was detected a short while later.

The launch failure happened approximately 148 seconds into flight, according to the 45th Space Wing, which monitors launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The explosion -- which weather officials detected at 150,000 feet -- sent a spray of debris falling into the Atlantic.

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