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Project Loon 

2020 

Aluminum, carbon fiber tubing, cardboard, lithium-ion batteries, metalized bubble wrap, nylon, photovoltaic (solar) panels, plastic, polyethylene film, RF/analog/digital circuit boards, spectra rope, steel, Styrofoam, various antennas

Description: A translucent balloon. It has a parachute shape that is bulbous at the top and has a point at the bottom. The balloon carries a small device with a rectangular solar panel.The photo includes the balloon floating across a scenic landscape including mountains and a large ocean. 

Sky-High Connectivity

How might the future be different if everyone had the same access to information?

About half of humanity still lacks basic internet access. This is especially true in rural and remote areas, where setting up traditional internet infrastructure can be challenging and costly. To address this challenge, Project Loon from X, the Moonshot Factory, created a network of balloons that provide internet from high in the sky. Like many bold, future-oriented undertakings, Project Loon’s path to commercial viability proved too long and risky, and it was wound down in early 2021. But it achieved key scientific breakthroughs, helping to accelerate progress toward human connectivity in a way that a less ambitious goal might not have. 

Credit: Loon balloon shortly after launching in Canterbury, New Zealand (2013). 

© X, the Moonshot Factory (a division of Alphabet Inc.)