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Google has released an update on its ambitious project to bring the internet to developing nations, claiming that it is now able to launch as many as 20 balloons a day - all of which now last much longer in orbit - thanks to hundreds of small improvements such as eliminating leaks and giving engineers fluffy socks.
Project Loon was launched by Google in 2011 under the leadership of the Google X team who also worked on self-driving cars and Glass.
The idea is that thousands of balloons will rush around the Earth at an altitude of around 32km - twice the height that airliners cruise at - and beam internet connections around the globe.
Developing nations where few people are currently online would have 3G-speed connections – more than enough to access the wealth of information online and send emails.
“Turns out it’s very fluffy socks, the fluffier the better,” said team members.
“This is just one of the hundreds of discoveries that has helped prevent leaks and refine our automated manufacturing process so that our balloons now last ten times longer in the stratosphere than they did in 2013, with many lasting 100 days or more.
The photo had been sent via Snapchat by the boy’s friend who had quite clearly forgotten that he had Beth on there as a contact.
As their relationship was fairly new, Beth didn’t stay upset for too long – and once she’d come around, she decided to take her revenge with the help of her friend Alicia Carley.
The envelopes of the balloons are just 0.076 mm thick and made of a strong plastic.
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We now have the ability to launch up to 20 balloons per day as we continue to improve our ability to launch consistently at scale.” Google Project Loon - in pictures The team have also been using a strategy of constant trajectory simulations prior to launch in order to place the balloons in the correct flight path.
One test flight came within 1.5km of its target after a flight of 9,000km.