Facts and Figures

Fun Facts about Project Loon

  • Project Loon balloons are made of a very thin plastic, about 3mil thick. We use superpressure envelopes -- this means the volume of the balloon remains constant, like a mylar party balloon. This lets it float much longer than a balloon that stretches as it inflates.

  • The balloons are 15m in diameter when fully inflated (the length of a small, light aircraft) but they do not inflate until they've reached float altitude in the stratosphere.

  • One of the most important balloon science breakthroughs of the project was around how to control the altitude of the balloon, which allows us to control where it will fly and to adjust speed.

  • The other critical computer science breakthrough we made was around our Mission Control, which makes balloons manageable in groups so they can provide consistent connectivity to a given area.

  • We currently use wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to predict potential flight pathways for our balloons.

  • A team of at least six people is required to launch a Loon balloon, including a launch commander and a coordination team at Mission Control.

Facts About the New Zealand Pilot

  • Our pilot test began this week.  We launched 30 balloons from the Tekapo area of New Zealand’s South Island.  

  • A group of about 50 pilot testers in Christchurch and parts of Canterbury now have special Internet antennas that can connect to the balloon-powered Internet when the balloons are in a 20km radius.  

  • Entrepreneur Charlies Nimmo of Leeston is the first person in the world to connect to balloon-powered Internet.

  • The launch team coordinates closely with the Civil Aviation Authority whenever there are balloons about to launch or in the air.  Once they’re in the stratosphere, the balloons will be twice as high as commercial airliners and barely visible to the naked eye.

  • The experience of our pilot testers will be used to refine the technology and shape the next phase of Project Loon.

Facts about the Internet
  • Internet access has been one of the most transformative technologies of our lifetimes.
  • The Internet accounts for more than 21% of GDP growth and contributes to over 4% of national GDPs in the G­20 economies.
  • The Internet has a huge impact on aspiring countries (

    Source - McKinsey).

  • By 2016 we expect the Internet to generate $4.2 trillion in value, doubling that of 2012.
  • Approximately two thirds of the world's population today doesn't have Internet access, and one third of those who are online are on slow connections.
  • Connection cost exceeds a month of income in more than ⅔ of the southern hemisphere countries (Source).

Fun Facts about Ballooning

  • Balloons have been used for communications since their invention -- as far back as 220 AD Chinese generals used paper lantern balloons for military signaling.

  • In 1783, the first balloon pilots were a caged duck, a sheep, and a rooster, who were sent up in the air in a paper and fabric balloon (Source - PBS).

  • On September 29, 1968, a superpressure balloon launched from Christchurch, NZ as part of the GHOST weather study program set a record by flying for over a year, 441 days, in the stratosphere.  A subsequent GHOST balloon set the current duration record that still stands today -- 744 days.