14 Photos - Jun 14, 2013
Photo: Project Loon team prepares for launch in the pre-dawn frost near Christchurch, New Zealand.Photo: Project Loon team prepares for launch as the sun rises near Christchurch, New Zealand.Photo: Preparing balloons for launch just before sunrise near Christchurch, New Zealand.Photo: Photo: The Project Loon team prepares solar panels, electronics and balloon envelopes for launch as the sun rises in New Zealand. 

The stratosphere is great for solar panels because there are no clouds to block the sun. It takes 4 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.Photo: Photo: Project Loon balloon nearing launch at a test site outside of Christchurch, New Zealand. 

The balloon as it launches is not fully inflated. As it reaches altitude the air pressure difference expands the balloon at its float altitude around 20 km, or 65,000 ft.Photo: Photo: Photo: The Project Loon team maintains communication with the devices as they float at altitude, and conveys position information with local aviation authorities as required.Photo: Each balloon uses 2.4 ghz spectrum and can cover a 40 km diameter area below. An Internet signal from a ground source is transmitted up to the nearest balloon, and then relayed through the balloon network to end users in remote locations, who have Project Loon Internet antennas on their homes.Photo: We track the position of the balloons on a map from Mission Control. On this screenshot, you can see the balloons’ coverage area extends to pilot testers throughout Christchurch. The white hiker symbol shows the position of our operations team, in place to recover balloons we land offshore. The blue lines show the balloons’ predicted paths, and the yellow lines show where each balloon would land should we decide to bring it down.Photo: The Nimmo family, the first pilot testers to connect to balloon-powered Internet, stand below the Project Loon internet antenna on their farmhouse in Christchurch.Photo: Our youngest pilot tester was just a few months old.