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Business News/ News / World/  Chinese spy balloon shot down by US peeks curiosity for the apparatus. How this works
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Chinese spy balloon shot down by US peeks curiosity for the apparatus. How this works

Notably, there are at least 1,800 high altitude weather balloons launched every day by meteorological stations around the world, which function like the one shot down by US

FILE PHOTO: The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023. REUTERS/Randall Hill/File Photo (REUTERS)Premium
FILE PHOTO: The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023. REUTERS/Randall Hill/File Photo (REUTERS)

The United States has blacklisted six Chinese entities it said were linked to Beijing's aerospace programs as part of its retaliation over an alleged Chinese spy balloon that traversed US airspace.

However, it still remains a suspect why China, following US allegations, would revive a World War I relic and what it takes to build a balloon for 100,000ft. 

The Chinese spy balloon that was shot down in US last week, had allegedly flown higher that passenger jets, according to BBC. The British daily has explained how such a balloon operates. 

Read here

Balloons have often been held one of human's most successful achievement, besides rockets, to have taken the imagination and evidence to space. According to a report on BBC, a balloon launched from the Sanriku Balloon Centre (SBC) in the north of Japan, quietly broke every absolute height record humanity had ever set.

However what does it take for Balloons to scale such heights only imaginable by rockets, and stay up once its there?

BBC quotes an expert in balloon making, who says, "We've done different formulations of plastics. And we have a couple of proprietary things that we've that we use now that are significantly better than what we were using 10 years ago. The other thing is how that plastic is seamed or welded together is a special process that we've put a lot of iteration into."

High altitude balloon equipment

It is also interesting to note that high-altitude balloons are are playing a survival game with Stratosphere. Depending on their purpose, people have to design equipment that could also survive the -80 degree Celcius. 

Van Der Werff says. "Designing electronics for a balloon is a lot like designing electronics for a spacecraft. The atmosphere at just 90,000ft (27.2km) is about 1% density it is here.

"It gets very cold up there, we'll get down to minus -80C (-112F)," he says. "But what's amusing and interesting is that, typically speaking, when people design electronics for the stratosphere, they actually have more trouble keeping it cool than keeping it warm, because there's [next to] no air up there. So, you can't blow a fan across the heatsink to move thermals out. The flip side of that challenge is this stuff all boots up and gets running on the ground. So, you have to operate in that environment and then transition to that other environment [at 90,000ft], which is a challenge."

High altitude balloon control

Once the balloon has reached the Stratosphere it becomes difficult to manouver the thing. Van Der Werff says that the best way is to move the balloon up and down, where it can take advantage of the stratosphere's unique properties. "It's called stratosphere because there are different layers of different atmospheric properties in there. What we found in flying all those balloons is that in those different altitudes, there's actually quite a bit of diversity in wind speed and direction. You have these different layers where the wind is blowing different directions."

Experts are using algorithms in an attempt to predict stratospheric wind patterns. If it comes out correctly, balloons will not ‘loiter’ in air, but be streered at target for hundreds of kilometers, possibly across the Pacific Ocean. 

Why Balloons?

According to the BBC report, balloons are much cheaper than a satellite sent up via a rocket – which makes them not only commercially viable, but also within the realms of dedicated amateur enthusiasts.

Notably, there are at least 1,800 high altitude weather balloons launched every day by meteorological stations around the world.

 

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Published: 12 Feb 2023, 05:30 AM IST
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