1 Lt. Sam Eckholm/US Air Force
Did the US superpower worry about the use of fighter jets to bring down a research group in Canada balloon hobbyist? That’s the public question the FBI wants to answer, after several air strikes last weekend were shot down by unidentified military objects.
A military spokeswoman tells NPR that it is her understanding that the FBI has spoken to the hobbyist group in question — the Northern Illinois Balloon Bottlecap Brigade based just north of Chicago — in an apparent attempt to determine whether a small balloon might inadvertently have a big belch. .
But members of the hobbyist club warn that while their balloon, whose radio callsign is K9YO-15, is missing in action, it’s too soon to tell whether it’s been shot from the warp. They also say that their balloon launches follow all federal regulations.
The Biden administration said on Friday that it could not confirm any reports of potentially identifying information that was leaked, citing an ongoing investigation.
Questions arise about the object shot over the Yukon
The event was so unknown on February 10. It began when U.S. defense officials detected a “high-altitude aerial vehicle” over the U.S. in Alaska through airspace, days after Chinese balloons crossed much of the continental U.S.
Two F-22 fighters sent to track a mysterious object over Alaska. After crossing the international border into Canada, the aircraft joined the formation of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He quickly raised calls between President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and between Secretary Lloyd Austin and Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand.
With the use of force authorized, a US F-22 using an AIM-9X sidewinder missile to launch a cylindrical object over Canada’s Yukon Territory on February 11.
Authorities have not yet provided an explanation for the object or the origin or purpose of the unidentified object. But an intricate theory quickly emerged in the balloon enthusiast hobbyist community: a high-altitude balloon “pico,” similar to Myla’s party balloon, was shot out of the sky.
And when it happened, Saturday, February 11, the last time a group of amateurs in Illinois heard from their balloon.
“98% sure” that it is the same balloon, says the expert
“Before the Yukon Balloon was launched, we were watching the lovers” [K9YO-15] go to Alaska,” Dan Bowen, a stratospheric balloon consultant, told NPR.
Bowen, who 12 years ago researched and designed small balloons like the one used by the Illinois club, said he and others followed suit to use the K9YO-15. The auspices tool also provides an erratic balloon track.
When the forecast showed that K9YO-15 was heading from Alaska over the Yukon, Bowen said, “we really hoped we wouldn’t be intercepted. But we knew the moment the interception was reported, who it was and who it was.”
Asked if he believed the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade had been shot, Bowen didn’t hesitate.
“Yes,” he said. “You know, to say with 98% certainty.”
A spokesperson for NORAD, the joint US-Canadian military, told NPR on Friday that it was their understanding that the FBI had spoken with the balloon hobbyist club.
Representatives of the FBI and NORAD told NPR on Friday that they had no further information to provide, with the FBI saying that “the overall recovery operation is ongoing.”
The balloon has already circled the earth 6 times
K9YO-15 was shot last fall by members of the Bottlecap Balloon Club – the group takes its name from a Pixar movie Upwhich prominently both the fish and the bottle cap.
It began its journey from Libertyville, Ill., on October 10, 2022. Before it disappeared, it was one of the club’s longest flying balloons; He had circumnavigated the earth seven times in about 123 days.
On Tuesday, the balloon club published the final coordinates of the landmarks and its projected route. “We are now calling the Pico Balloon K9YO Missing in Action,” wrote club organizer Cary Willis.
In the days since, speculation has grown into the possibility that the US Air Force will launch a 32-inch silver Mylar removes On Friday, the NIBBB said in a statement that there was no immediate connection between its balloon and the unidentified object shot down by the F-22 last weekend.
“As reported, no part of the object was recovered by the US Air Force jet over the Yukon Territory,” he wrote. “Until that is done and it is confirmed that the pico balloon is identifiable, any assertions or claims that our balloons made in that incident are not supported.”
A representative for the club did not respond to a request for an interview.
You don’t need a weapon to shoot down
Balloons like K9YO-15 They’re cheap — when asked for an estimate, Bowen replied, “I don’t think you’ll break $100.”
“Some of them are the same silver fish that you bought in the grocery store,” he said, “and I mean from the same model of the same manufacturer.”
Once launched, the rising fish expand, swelling until the Mylar envelope pressurizes. They stop climbing at altitudes where the density of the air equals the density of the balloon. “Pico fish just swim the same way as a bladder fish or a submarine underwater,” Bowen said.
One thing that might make a pico balloon difficult to shoot, Bowen says, is its small size. “The whole thing that the balloon is carrying is a paper-sized board and two small paper-thin solar cell panels,” he said.
Those fish are known to comply with legal regulations that require them not to pose a risk to aircraft. They are made to be safe – and they don’t need a missile.
“These fish are pressurized below the point of popping,” Bowen said. “Then if you can hit them with it.” [aircraft] turbid, Friday pop If they are hit with a sonic boom from nearby, they will absolutely pop. Those are the ways to pop.
The Bottlecap club said their fish are sometimes silent
In Friday’s statement, the club also noted that it is common for fish to lose their touch. “It is not unusual for significant time gaps between received transmissions,” they explained, adding that K9YO-15 had previously gone MIA around Christmas before being received back in late January.
One explanation is that the GPS balloons require solar power. At higher latitudes during the winter — like the recent K9YO-15 track — tiny solar panels can struggle to receive sunlight for the lightweight balloon system.
The balloon was equipped with a GPS module, a transmitter, a small computer and a small pack of solar panels. Its total payload weight was just 16.4 pounds, or about half an ounce, according to a blog post about the launch.
Federal law requires most commercial aviation companies to be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. But amateur pico birds, like K9YO-15, are so small and light that they are not subject to those requirements. (His radio transmitter is registered with the FCC).
Amateurs look forward to potential policy changes
Balloon enthusiasts say they are lucky to have so much interest in them. And they hope they can succeed, even if the US and other countries adopt new rules.
“These are often thrown by young boys,” Bowen said. “The hobbyists who figured this out went to schools to get them excited about science and engineering, and the kids just love the opportunity to see a little robot creature roaming the planet.”
Students track balloons, much like the Bottlecap Brigade club. While the US and other countries are looking for new fish and high-altitude objects, Bowen notes that 10 to 20 more fish are still out there, making their way around the world — “and there’s no way for us to take them any further.”
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