- The company's device spent 312 days in the air.
- During the flight, engineers monitor the balloon's telemetry around the clock in order to make necessary adjustments to the device's design in the future.
- During flight, the automated system carefully manages the balloon, tracking hundreds of streams of telemetry data related to the performance of the flight system.
Google subsidiary Loon LLC, which provides Internet access in remote and rural areas, has set a new record for the longest balloon flight in the stratosphere. According to the company website, it uses high-altitude balloons in the stratosphere at an altitude of 18 km to 25 km to create an aerial wireless network with up to 1 Mbps speeds.
Furthermore, the company’s device spent 312 days in the air. This is 89 days longer than before. The balloon was first launched in Puerto Rico, after which it was sent to Peru, where it served as a network access point for three months. Then, it flew across the South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and went to Mexico.
In 10 months, the balloon flew close to 135,000 miles. This information became available via the Loon website. Loon technical Director Salvatore Candido said that this was achieved thanks to a specially designed design and materials.
Before launching, the developers ran millions of simulations. This allowed them to develop an optimal model of a ball with a distributed load. According to Candido, some of the test prototypes looked very strange, which is why residents of Kentucky mistook them for UFOs.
During the flight, engineers monitor the balloon’s telemetry around the clock in order to make necessary adjustments to the device’s design in the future. In addition, the navigation system determines the optimal altitude for flight so that the balloon maintains the required temperature level.
Engineers stressed that increasing the duration of flights will reduce the cost of each flight hour, and it will also be possible to provide access to the network in such remote places as the Pacific Ocean. Systems engineering and simulation Loon launches balloons almost every week, and the current size of its fleet is close to 100 flight systems worldwide.
Moreover, the bursting tests help in the development of more durable balloons. This is not an easy task, since the balloon must be cut securely and at scale, sewn together in the shape of a pumpkin, wrapped, folded into a giant box, and delivered across the country to the launch sites.
During flight, the automated system carefully manages the balloon, tracking hundreds of streams of telemetry data related to the performance of the flight system.
Automatic systems evaluate the amount of lifting gas in the balloon, and carefully adjust the amount of ballast throughout the flight to ensure that the balloon is not overloaded, detecting when the pressure inside the balloon increases, or when the sun shines on it.
The navigation system selects the altitude at which the balloon remains warm enough to remain under pressure all night. The flight engineer team closely monitors the Loon fleet 24 hours a day. Once these images are recorded, they can be analyzed an automated system and also the team itself. Loon has been successful with this project.
Loon published a technical paper that discusses the huge opportunities in the stratosphere, which is a multi-billion dollar market spanning telecommunications, high-resolution Earth observation, and weather forecasting and modeling.
To explore these new opportunities, Loon co-founded HAPS Alliance, a group of telecommunications, satellite, aviation, and technology companies that help explore and develop a truly new industry.
The future of the company is good and it also created a solution around the globe.