Aerospace company’s trial balloons spark calls of concern – The Virginian-Pilot

SIOUX FALLS, SD – Citizens who called the National Weather Service concerned about some “silvery objects” in the skies around Sioux Falls this week prompted the agency to tweet that the objects were not aliens, but rather test balloons launched by an aerospace subsidiary in South Dakota. .

“Sorry, not aliens,” the NWS tweeted in response to calls it received.

The high-altitude balloons were launched by Raven Aerostar, a subsidiary of Raven Industries.

“As a South Dakota-based company and a world leader in stratospheric balloon technology, our team flies stratospheric balloons year-round, and many are launched from our dedicated hangar near Baltic, SD,” said Aerostar President Jim Nelson. “Two of our Thunderhead balloon systems are currently over Sioux Falls.”

The balloons, which look like hot air balloons, fly miles above the earth’s surface. Once the balloon reaches the stratosphere, it changes from a teardrop to a pumpkin shape, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

Aerostar said the balloons have a variety of uses, including monitoring forest fires, expanding cellular networks and military reconnaissance. They navigate by changing altitude autonomously to take advantage of wind currents in the atmosphere.

“Research and development flights help us test the accuracy of our wind patterns, monitor the durability and functionality of balloon components in harsh conditions, and improve our ability to navigate to an area and then stay in the air. above that area for an extended period of time,” Nelson said.

Aerostar provides high-altitude balloons to the US Department of Defense. The company said the balloons are cheaper than satellites and can operate for months at a time.