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Alphabet's Loon sets record for stratospheric flight by a balloon

Google's parent company created Loon to help bring internet access to underserved areas and disaster zones.

Google Sergey Brin Project Loon

Project Loon is designed to bring high-speed internet to remote areas and disaster zones from wireless-beaming balloons.

James Martin/CNET

Google's parent company, Alphabet, has revealed that one of its internet-broadcasting Loon high-altitude balloons broke the record for stratospheric flight after spending 312 days aloft and traveling 135,000 miles, nearly circumnavigating the globe. 

The balloon's journey, which was detailed Wednesday in a blog post by Loon Chief Technology Officer Salvador Candido, began in Puerto Rico in May 2019 and ended in Baja, Mexico, 10 months later after circling 60,000 feet above Peru and then over the Pacific. The previous record of 223 days was also held by a Loon balloon.

Alphabet created the Loon subsidiary to develop balloon technologies that can broadcast an LTE signal in places where cell towers don't or can't exist, as well as areas stricken by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, that have knocked out communications infrastructure. Other solutions to such problems have utilized drones or floating buoys to create an instant network.

Loon began offering regular commercial service this year in Kenya after previously only having been deployed in emergency situations.

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