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Piece of European rocket found in Florida waters

July 9, 2013 at 5:25 PM

KEY WEST, Fla., July 9 (UPI) -- A pair of shark researchers discovered a large piece of a European Arianespace rocket floating in the shallows of Florida's Dry Tortugas.

Wes and Theo Pratt, who visit the Tortugas for a month each year to study the mating habits of nurse sharks, said they had kayaked about half a mile from Garden Key July 4 and they discovered the rocket piece, about the size of a small swimming pool, stuck in the sand, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday.

The rocket was from Arianespace, a European company specializing in commercial satellite launches.

The piece was towed to a dock at Dry Tortugas National Park, where park manager Glenn Simpson performed some research and determined it was likely from one of four launches since November 2012.

Aaron Lewis, communications director for Arianespace's affiliate in Washington, D.C., looked at pictures of the item and said it was "without a doubt" from an Ariane 5 rocket. He said it appears to be a piece of fairing, the sheathing protecting the rocket's payload. He said he doesn't know if the company will attempt to reclaim the item.

"I have no idea,'' he said. "I will check with headquarters."

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