A balloon launched by an Illinois ham radio club might have been the balloon shot down over Canada recently by U.S. Air Force fighter jets.

The balloon was launched in October 2022 by the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade and was on its seventh trip around the world when it disappeared from tracking about the same time an Air Force F-22 shot down a balloon over the Yukon Territory in Canada on Feb. 11. 

The amateur radio pico balloon, heard on the air around the world as K9YO-15, carried a tiny payload that included a low-power transmitter on the HF bands that allowed hams to hear signals during the flight and to track it via the WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter) digital mode and on APRS on VHF and UHF for more localized reception reports. The type of balloons used for this flight rise as high as 43,000 feet in the sky with their 11-gram tethered trackers.

At any given time, there are dozens of these ham radio balloons aloft over the world, relaying signals for hams to track as they fly from continent to continent. They typically make several trips around the world before failing or malfunctioning. Few teams recover the balloons they launch when they drop from the sky in remote places or oceans.

Read more about this in Aviation Week at https://aviationweek.com/defense-space/aircraft-propulsion/hobby-clubs-missing-balloon-feared-shot-down-usaf or on a hobby radio site here: https://www.rtl-sdr.com/the-us-airforce-may-have-shot-down-an-amateur-radio-pico-balloon-over-canada/.

Check out the Illinois club’s report on the project at https://nibbb.org/links-to-locate-and-track/.