14 Photos - Jun 14, 2013
Photo: 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.Photo: Paul, an operations team lead, uses a red sounding balloon to test the wind direction at the launch site.Photo: Photo: The equipment carried by the balloon contains avionics software, flight sensors, and power systems. The avionics software is used to coordinate with mission control and perform safety checks, the flight sensors measure the balloon's state and the environment - things like GPS position, barometric pressure and temperature - and the power systems regulate solar charging, power usage, and battery safety. Above, the equipment is readied for launch.Photo: 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: The orange peanut clamp is used to weigh down the envelope so the balloon doesn't float away while final preparations are being made. A peanut is a clamp commonly used in the launch of high-altitude balloons. The balloon is launched by removing the peanut.Photo: 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.Photo: Installing the altitude control system.Photo: Project Loon balloons use super-pressure envelopes, meaning the volume of the balloon remains constant, like a mylar party balloon. This allows the balloons to stay afloat for much longer than a zero-pressure (variable volume) balloon.Photo: Photo: A team of at least 6 people is required to launch a balloon. This team includes a launch commander to lead the team and coordinate with Mission Control, several people to do ground checks on various electronic components, and someone to set the balloon up for launch and inspect the envelope.Photo: Project Loon sails through the stratosphere where there are different wind layers. We can maneuver our balloons by identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction and then adjusting its altitude so it's floating in that layer. We currently use wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).Photo: The balloon ascends to the stratosphere.Photo: A custom-designed Internet antenna attached to a user's house allows them to receive Internet service from Project Loon. The Internet antenna's balloon-inspired design is a playful symbol of the Project Loon network.