SpaceX Dragon debris lights up sky in bright fireball over western US during reentry (video)

A piece of a SpaceX spacecraft made a dramatic but harmless re-entry over the western United States late Thursday (April 27).

The "trunk" section of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft broke into shimmering streaks over a swath of states, such as Colorado and Arizona, at about 4:52 a.m. EDT (0952 GMT). That equates to 1:52 a.m. or 2:52 a.m. locally depending on location.

The "trunk", used to launch the NASA Crew-5 astronaut mission to the International Space Station in October 2022, is an unpressurized cargo hold that supports Crew Dragon during the launch phase, according to SpaceX materials. The trunk powers Dragon during flight or docking operations.

Related: SpaceX investigate Dragon space junk crash

Footage of SpaceX debris breaking up over Denver on April 27, 2023. Original photo at (Image credit: Will B. / AMS Meteors)

The American Meteor Society tracked at least 36 reports of the fireball in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. Several of the space junk reports included images or video, including one spotted at Denver International Airport in a brilliant video by observer Scott Davis.

Jonathan McDowell,  an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracks re-entry events, confirmed it was a SpaceX trunk that was jettisoned from Crew Dragon on March 12 during that mission's successful splashdown. "The reentry breakup was widely seen," he wrote on Twitter.

SpaceX also confirmed the hardware was from the Crew Dragon in a statement to CBS KKTV 11, which is based in Colorado Springs.

"Overnight, the 18th Space Defense Squadron confirmed re-entry of SpaceX’s Crew-5 Dragon trunk occurred on Thursday, April 27," part of the SpaceX statement read

"NASA and SpaceX are committed to safe commercial crew operations and are working closely to improve orbital hardware demise modeling," officials added.

Anyone who comes across debris is asked to report it to SpaceX immediately, and not to touch it. The hotline is at 1-866-623-0234 or an email is available at

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: