Google Loon Balloon crashes into Seychelles waters

STRATOSPHERIC BALLOON ENDS UP IN SEYCHELLES WATERS

Reporting by Alain St. Ange, Victoria, Seychelles

(Posted 13th May 2020)

Alain St.Ange, the island’s former Minister for Tourism has confirmed that a stratospheric balloon had landed in the Seychelles waters.

Seychelles is the location that a Google Loon Balloon landed close enough to an outlying island of this mid-ocean archipelago. Loon is a network of stratospheric balloons designed to bring Internet connectivity to rural and remote communities worldwide.

It is being reported in the islands that Google had expected their balloon to land in the Seychelles waters and that they wanted the equipment recovered. Loon runs packs of five to 10 balloons. Together, they can provide an aerial mesh network (more users require more balloons) with backup balloons waiting nearby, ready to hop up. The balloons are designed to extend connectivity to billions around the world and their network travel on the edge of space delivering the needed connectivity to unserved communities around the world. Loon partners with mobile network operators globally to expand the reach of their LTE service.

One of their balloons that landed in Seychelles waters was recovered by workers on one of the islands and brought to shore. Alain St.Ange said that as far as possible it is believed that the crash landing in Seychelles was the Google Loon Stratospheric Balloon and that it was not any satellite or spacecraft.

Seychelles is a group of some 115 islands with both granitic and coral islands situated in the Indian Ocean just four degrees south of the equator.

5 Comments

  1. Please note the Loon balloon landed and did not crush find below a statement from Loon LLC.

    On the record statement from a Loon spokesperson:
    “I can confirm that Loon executed a controlled landing of one of our balloons near the Seychelles on May 11, 2020.

    “The landing in question was completed in a safe and secure manner in coordination with local air traffic control officials based on established protocols. Per Loon’s landing procedures, a parachute deployed and the balloon descended at a controlled rate off-shore. At no time did it pose a risk to the local population. A Loon recovery team was dispatched by boat to the landing location and the balloon was collected for recycling.”

    “The landing of balloons is a routine part of our operations. It is something we have done more than a thousand times before, and it is something that will continue to occur over the course of our work to expand internet access in Africa and other parts of the world.”

    More information about how Loon safely lands balloons:
    Loon’s balloons are monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by our team of Flight Engineers. We maintain continuous telemetry and command links with every balloon, tracking the location using GPS. Every minute we receive approximately 2,000 health checks and telemetry points from each balloon that tell us when is the right time to land a balloon.
    When a balloon is ready to land, the lift gas keeping the balloon aloft is released and a parachute automatically deploys to control the landing. Landings are done in close coordination with local air traffic control. Once landed, we have specially-trained recovery teams that collect the balloon materials.
    Loon has significant experience deploying and operating balloons in the stratosphere. To date, our balloons have logged over 40 million kilometers of flight around the world.

    Courtesy Imagery:
    To see a visual representation of how Loon’s balloons land, click here.
    To see an image of the launch site in Puerto Rico from where balloons like this one are launched, click here.
    To see a video of a Loon balloon launching, click here.
    To see what a Loon balloon looks like when fully inflated, click here.

    Q&A:
    Q: How do the balloons land?
    When a balloon descends, the lift gas is released from the balloon and the parachute deploys automatically. The Loon team tracks the balloon location using GPS and coordinates directly with the local air traffic control to bring the balloon safely to the ground or off-shore. We then dispatch a recovery team to collect it.

    Q. How do you collect the balloons after they have landed?
    The Loon team includes recovery specialists who collect landed balloons, and we have recovery partners situated worldwide to assist with recovery operations.

    Q. Have you recovered all the balloons that have come down?
    We want to analyze the stratospheric condition impacts on the balloon equipment and create further improvements based on our learnings. Because of that, we work very hard to create effective operational processes on the ground to retrieve all our balloons.

    Q. How do you stay out of the way of airplanes?
    Our balloons fly well above commercial airliners and other aircraft. We coordinate with local and regional air-traffic control when balloons are launched and when they land. Safety is our highest priority. To name a few safety features in place:
    the balloons have a transponder that’s used to aid in coordination with local air traffic control, and it’s operated regardless of altitude; the balloon equipment has radar reflective material on it.
    the balloons carry hi-intensity omni-directional LED lights visible at least 5 miles/8km away, which operate at all times (day or night) and at all altitudes; and
    the balloons have parachutes to control their descent.

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