Leaked Pentagon documents show the downed Chinese spy balloon may have had a feature known as “synthetic aperture radar” that can see through certain materials, WaPo reports
The downed Chinese spy balloon may have had a synthetic aperture radar, The Washington Post reports.
The technology has the ability to observe objects in the dark or through clouds.
SAR is used worldwide by organizations such as NASA and the European Space Agency.
Earlier in February, a China-linked high-altitude balloon with surveillance capabilities flew over the continental United States shot down over the Atlantic.
Not much was publicly known about the balloon at the time, but a new trove of Pentagon documents leaked on Discord show that it — and up to four other previously unknown spy balloons like this one — could have a function serving as a known as “synthetic aperture radar” which can see through certain objects The Washington Post reported.
It was Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old US National Guard aviator arrested Thursday in connection with the leaks.
US intelligence believed so because of the balloon, which officials named in an apparent reference to Killeen-23 Gangster Donald Killeen from the 1940swas equipped with the ability to generate up to 10,000 watts of solar energy – enough to power a typical home – which could support such capabilities.
“The amount of solar energy generated by the panels of the Chinese stratospheric balloon, which the NSA has dubbed Killeen-23, is too high for a weather balloon,” the document said.
Synthetic aperture radar is the solution to the problem with true aperture radar, which cannot produce high-resolution images without an impractically large antenna. SAR “synthesizes” a large antenna, but the concept is the same – it launches bursts of electromagnetic energy at an object on Earth, and a sensor then records the wavelength of the energy it receives back. according to NASA. These sensor readings then allow the radar to create a reconstruction of any objects that are under the beam of energy.
Because SAR doesn’t take photos and instead uses electromagnetic data to create a high-resolution image, the technology can also “see” in the dark. through clouds, smoke, earth and rain. It can also help with three-dimensional reconstructions, unlike cameras that can only capture what is overtly visible from above.
Invented in 1951, the technology is used worldwide by scientific organizations such as NASA and the European Space Agency to observe the Earth’s topography.
It is also used in war to spy on opponents. Recently, a Canadian satellite operator helped Ukraine by providing SAR images to officials. The imagery allowed Ukrainian officials to monitor Russian troop movements in bad weather and cloudy days.
The documents also show that certain functions of the balloons are still unknown to US intelligence, as certain sensors of the device are marked as “unidentified” in photos.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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