Photographs have been released of a damaged spherical object, which resembles a Composite Overwrap Pressure Vessel (COPV). COPVs are commonly used by spacecraft to store pressurized liquid fuel and are often constructed of steel or titanium and wrapped in Kevlar - the same material used for bulletproof vests. These objects are therefore very tough can can often survive the extreme heating of reentry.
NEWS: Russian Rocket Explosion Boosts Space Junk Risk
These falling space orbs have, in the past, caused some excitement as to their extraterrestrial origin, but after expert analysis they are quickly identified as space junk.
Friday's failed Proton rocket launch destroyed a sophisticated $205 million satellite that was destined to become Russia's most powerful telecommunications satellite, supplying internet access to isolated regions. The Express-AM4P satellite was built by Airbus Group's Astrium corporation.
ANALYSIS: CubeSails to Drag Space Junk from Orbit
Russia has experienced a string of high-profile failures in recent years and this is the sixth incident involving a Proton-M since 2010. The last Proton-M failure destroyed three Russian-made Glonass navigation satellites in July 2013 after the booster veered dramatically out of control seconds after launch and crashed, creating a huge fireball near the launch pad.