The downed Chinese spy balloon may have had synthetic aperture radar, reports the Washington Post.
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.
In February, a high-altitude surveillance-capable balloon linked to China flew over the continental United States before being shot down over the Atlantic.
At the time, much about the balloon wasn’t publicly known, but a new treasure trove of leaked Pentagon documents on Discord shows it — and up to four other previously unknown spy balloons like it — may have had a function known as “synthetic aperture radar.” “. ” who can see through certain objects, reported the Washington Post.
Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old U.S. National Guard airman, was arrested Thursday in connection with the leaks.
U.S. intelligence agencies believed it because the balloon, which officials dubbed Killeen-23 in an apparent reference to 1940s mobster Donald Killeen, was 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 that the NSA has named Killeen-23 is excessive for a weather balloon,” the document reads.
Synthetic aperture radar is the solution to the problem with true aperture radar, which cannot create high resolution images without an impractical antenna. SAR “synthesizes” a large antenna, but the concept is the same: It releases blasts of electromagnetic energy to an object on Earth, and a sensor then records the wavelength of the energy it receives, according to NASA. These sensor readings then allow the radar to create a reconstruction of any object that is below the energy beam.
Because SAR doesn’t take pictures and instead uses electromagnetic data to create a high-resolution image, the technology can “see” in the dark, as well as through clouds, smoke, soil, and rain. It can also help with three-dimensional reconstructions, unlike cameras, which can only capture what’s overtly visible from above.
The technology, invented in 1951, 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 warfare to spy on opponents. Recently, a Canadian satellite operator helped Ukraine by providing SAR images to officials. The images allowed Ukrainian officials to monitor Russian troop movements during inclement weather and overcast days.
The documents also reveal that some functions of the balloons are still unknown to US intelligence, as some sensors on the device are labeled “unidentified” in the photos.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to an Insider’s request for comment.
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