The newbie radio neighborhood continues to be abuzz about three latest shootdowns of unidentified flying objects in North American airspace: one over Alaska, one over the Yukon in northwestern Canada and one other above Lake Huron.
It seems that the item blasted out of the sky over the Yukon on Feb. 11 by a U.S. Air Force jet may need been an newbie radio “pico balloon” — particularly, one referred to as K9YO-15, which launched from Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville, Illinois, north of Chicago.
K9YO-15 was apparently on its seventh circumnavigation of the globe after being aloft for 123 days.
A small however well-traveled balloon
According to Cary Willis of the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade (NIBBB), there are roughly three million newbie radio operators across the globe. The NIBBB is a subset of this group, a small cadre of pico balloon fans.
“Our balloons are very small, 32-inch [81 centimeters] diameter, 100-inch [254 cm] circumference, pre-stretched and carry a payload of around 10 grams [0.35 ounces] including the tracker, solar panel and 33-foot [10 meters] antenna wire,” Willis instructed Inside Outer Space.
The K9YO-15 balloon made use of a silver mylar 32-inch sphere, which is offered for the low worth of $13.33.
“Our pico balloon K9YO had been flying for 123 days preparing for the seventh time around the world when it went missing over Canada,” Willis mentioned. “That wasn’t the first time K9YO went missing. After the fifth time around the world in 77 days, K9YO went missing for 30 days, reported on the 106th day over Mongolia and continued the sixth circumnavigation at 112 days.”
“I believe our communications with the FBI will help them identify our project as science in nature.”
Missing in motion
In a communication with an NIBBB group member, Willis mentioned that “we should be very proud of the work that we have done, and hope to continue our project connecting with amateur radio stations around the world.”
Since pico balloon K9YO-15 has not been heard from for a number of days, amateurs are calling it “missing in action.” The object was final reported on Feb. 11 close to Hagemeister Island in Alaska.
According to the Pentagon, the item shot down over Canada that day was a “small metallic balloon with a tethered payload” — seemingly a match for a pico balloon.
“We don’t yet know exactly what these three objects were. But nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country,” U.S. President Joe Biden mentioned on Thursday (Feb. 16) throughout a press briefing that addressed the United States’ response to latest aerial objects.
“We acted out of an abundance of caution,” Biden defined, “with established parameters for determining how to deal with unidentified aerial objects in U.S. airspace.”
Biden mentioned that the intelligence neighborhood’s current assessment is that “these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.” A spread of entities, together with international locations, corporations, and analysis organizations “operate objects at altitudes for purposes that are not nefarious, including legitimate scientific research,” he added.
The attainable shoot-down of K9YO-15 was an unfortunate incident, mentioned Douglas Malnati, an newbie radio operator who launches pico balloons.
“Pico balloons are safe. I think once the government has a better understanding of what they’re seeing, they will agree,” Malnati instructed Inside Outer Space.
“Pico balloons don’t spy on anyone, and they’re perfectly safe to be in the sky with aircraft. The FAA [U.S. Federal Aviation Administration] has guidelines about what can/can’t fly, and pico balloons are well inside the safety threshold, so they don’t pose a danger to aircraft, nor to people on the ground,” Malnati mentioned. The objects are very light-weight, so they do not pose a hazard to individuals and infrastructure on the bottom eeven in the event that they pop and fall, he added.
“So in total, I suspect the shootdown was a misunderstanding, if that is what happened,” Malnati mentioned. “As far as the future for pico balloons, hopefully the attention brings more people to the hobby, and they enjoy it!”
Leonard David is creator of the ebook “Moon Rush: The New Space Race (opens in new tab),” revealed by National Geographic in May 2019. A longtime author for Space.com, David has been reporting on the space trade for greater than 5 many years. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).