Suspected MH370 debris found on Thai beach is ‘highly likely’ to be from Japanese rocket

The piece of metal is almost certainly part of a Japanese H-IIA or H-IIB rocket

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The Independent Online

A piece of debris found on a Thai beach is almost certainly from a Japanese rocket, not the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 as has been suggested.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said the piece of metal is “highly likely” to be part of a Japanese H-IIA or H-IIB rocket launched from southern Japan, following an initial examination of photos and videos of the object.

The 2x3-metre piece of curved metal, crusted with barnacles and weighing about 100 kilograms, was found by fishermen on Saturday after washing ashore at Pak Phanang in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, about 800km south of Bangkok.

The discovery sparked speculation it may have come from the missing jet MH370, which disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpa to Beijing in March 2014 with 239 people on board.

So far the only piece of wreckage to be recovered from the plane washed up on Reunion Island in July 2015.

Malaysian authorities cautioned against speculation of a link to a Malaysia Airlines flight missing almost two years PA

MHI spokeswoman, Sayo Suwashita, said officials are trying to determine which rocket the debris may come from and its launch date. 

Rocket debris falls into the ocean after every launch, Ms Suwashita added. Most is collected but sometimes pieces can be found some distance from the launch site, including in foreign waters.

The placement of bolts and the numbers etched on the debris resemble the honeycomb launch fairing of a Japanese H-IIA rocket, a liquid fuelled launch system used to transport satellites and space probes, according to VOA news.

Aerospace consultants have said the overall shape and design are that of a H-IIA interstage.

Seven H-IIA's have been launched in the past two years from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre and the condition of the debris suggests it has been in the ocean for a year or more, according to specialists.

Further investigation would be necessary to confirm precise details, MHI in Tokyo told VOA.

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said on Sunday the search for the missing jet is ongoing in the Indian Ocean and the second phase is due to be completed by June.

Australia has led a multinational search, which so far has cost more than $120 million.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau announced on Monday the search of 120 square kilometres of seabed, where the Boeing 777 is said to have crashed, had been set back after a ship lost its sonar equipment.

Additional reporting by Associated Press