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Project Loon: Google's stratospheric Internet plan

The technology giant is launching another one of its 'moonshot' projects, an attempt to beam down wireless Internet signals to remote and rural communities with poor access to broadband connections

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The Project Loon team monitors their balloons 24 hours a day, from launch to recovery, and shares position information and projections with local aviation authorities.


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The stratosphere is great for solar panels because there are no clouds to block the sun. It takes four hours for the solar panels to charge the battery during the day, and that power is sufficient to keep all the flight systems working 24 hours a day.


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A team of at least six people is required to launch a balloon. This team includes a launch commander to lead the team and co-ordinate with Mission Control, several people to do ground checks on various electronic components, and someone to set the balloon up for launch.


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Project Loon team member Bill Rogers fills a balloon with helium while Paul Acosta monitors inflation. Each balloon requires 12 tanks of helium, the amount of which can be used to control how quickly the balloon ascends.


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The launch is conducted on farmland, in view of a yellow crop duster.


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Despite the winds, the balloon ascends smoothly to the stratosphere.


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The Project Loon team maintains communication with the devices as they float at altitude, and conveys position information with local aviation authorities as required.


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Project Loon sails through the stratosphere where there are different wind layers. The Project Loon team can manoeuvre the balloons by identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction and then adjusting its altitude so it’s floating in that layer. The wind data is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


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