EXPLAINER: What we know and don’t know about the Chinese balloon

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Here are details about the balloon that has triggered a dramatic diplomatic dispute between the US and China.

SHANGHAI, China – The US shooting down of what Washington says was a Chinese spy balloon and Beijing says was a civilian scientific vessel accidentally blown off course has fueled widespread questions, including about the balloon itself.

Civilians viewing the balloon from the ground described it as a giant white orb as it floated about 60,000 feet above the central United States, an altitude roughly twice that of civilian air traffic. “A typical weather forecasting balloon will have a lightweight radiosonde payload that is about 200 grams in weight. The balloon at release will be about 1.4 meters and will burst around 6 meters in diameter, and the flight time will be between 90-120 minutes,” Jesse Geffen, a Kaymont account manager, told Reuters.

Smaller players include Guangzhou Double-One Weather Equipment Company, whose company’s chairman Lin Xiuping told Reuters that her firm and Zhuzhou Rubber were capable of making balloons that could fly at the height the Chinese balloon was flying at over the United States.An employee that answered the phone at Zhuzhou Rubber’s headquarters said the US balloon had nothing to do with the company and declined to accept further questions.

China does not appear to have a private company equivalent, but the official Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Aerospace Information Research Institute and Institute of Optoelectronics have both conducted significant research on stratospheric balloons and published accounts of launches.

 

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