Billions of people around the world are still without internet access. Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, delivering connectivity to people in unserved and underserved communities around the world.
Loon partners with mobile network operators globally to expand the reach of their LTE service. Together, we help expand coverage to places that lack it, supplement existing networks, and provide expedient coverage after natural disasters.
Delivering connectivity from balloons flying 20 km up in the stratosphere poses a unique set of engineering challenges. To expand connectivity to unserved and underserved areas around the world, Loon combines advancements in materials science, atmospheric modeling, machine learning, communications systems, and more.
THE LOON SYSTEM
Loon has taken the most essential components of a cell tower and redesigned them to be light and durable enough to be carried by a balloon 20 km up, on the edge of space. Loon balloons are designed and manufactured to endure the harsh conditions in the stratosphere, where winds can blow over 100 km/hr, and temperatures can drop as low as -90° C.
Made from sheets of polyethylene, each tennis court-sized balloon is built to last for well over 100 days before landing back on Earth in a controlled descent.
All the flight equipment is highly energy efficient and is powered by renewable energy. Solar panels power the system during the day while charging an onboard battery to allow for nighttime operations.
Our custom-built Autolaunchers are designed to launch Loon balloons safely and reliably at scale. Side panels protect the balloon from the wind as it is filled with lift gas and positioned for launch. The crane points downwind to smoothly release the Loon balloon up into the stratosphere. Each crane is capable of launching a new balloon into the Loon network every 30 minutes.
The Loon team needed to design a balloon that could last for 100+ days in the stratosphere in order to deliver consistent connectivity. But, how do you test and design something that spends so much time in harsh conditions 20 kilometers in the air?
Loon’s greater coverage area enables mobile network operators to expand their coverage where it is needed. Loon transmits an operator’s signal from connection points on the ground beams it across multiple balloons in the stratosphere, and then sends that signal back to a user’s LTE device. Our entire network can function autonomously, efficiently routing connectivity across balloons and ground stations while taking into account balloon motion, obstructions, and weather events.