NASA Hit With $80K Lawsuit After ISS Space Debris Crashes Into Florida Home

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NASA is being sued by a family in Florida after a piece of space debris from a battery pallet crashed through their home. Lawyers representing the family remarked this could be “a precedent setting case that sets the standard for the future of space debris claims in both the public and private sectors.”

It is an eerie thought to think about a piece of space debris crashing through one’s home, but that is exactly what happened to one family in Florida. On March 8, 2024, a stanchion from the NASA flight support equipment used to mount International Space Station (ISS) batteries on a cargo pallet penetrated the roof and subflooring of Alejandro Otero’s family home. NASA later confirmed the debris was indeed from the space station. Now the family is suing NASA for $80K for damages to the home, as well as for emotional and mental damage.

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*Click to enlarge*

While the Otero’s son was home when the space debris came crashing through the roof, no one was hurt. However, the family hired Mica Nguyen Worthy to help them navigate the insurance and legal process to make a formal claim against NASA, according to a press release.

“Space debris is a real and serious issue because of the increase in space traffic in recent years,” remarked Worthy in a press release. She added the space debris claim is historical “in that it involves a ‘real life example’ of the consequences of space debris surviving to the Earth’s surface.”

In a blog post, NASA remarked the hardware was expected to fully burn up during entry through Earth’s atmosphere. However, the piece that struck the Otero home in Naples, Florida, did not. NASA collected the item and performed analysis at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it later confirmed the 4-inch tall piece of debris was part of a battery pallet from the ISS.

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Space debris found in North Carolina. *Click to enlarge*

In a more recent space debris incident in North Carolina, a piece believed to be from a SpaceX Crew-7 Dragon’s trunk was found along a hiking trail 20 miles west of Asheville, NC. The debris was found by a father and son who were performing weekly maintenance on the property. Luckily, this piece of space junk fell harmlessly into the woods.

Worthy explained, “If the incident had happened overseas, and someone in another country were damaged by the same space debris as in the Oteros’ case, the U.S. would have been absolutely liable to pay for those damages under the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects also known as the ‘Space Liability Convention.’”

The ball is now in NASA’s court to respond to the lawsuit. The law firm which Worthy is part of added that under the FTCA, NASA has six months to respond to the claims. While the Otero family awaits a response from the space agency, Worthy is continuing to speak to other space law experts in the space community.