Alphabet is closing Loon, its division that provides the internet from floating balloons, according to an article on the Alphabet’s Moonshot X division blog.
“The road to commercial viability has proven to be much longer and riskier than expected,” Astro Teller, who runs X, wrote in the blog post. “In the coming months, we will begin to scale back our operations and it won’t be another bet within Alphabet.”
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, launched Loon in June 2013, and Loon transitioned from a moonshot to an independent company within Alphabet in 2018. Loon launched its first commercial internet service in Kenya in July, consisting of a fleet of about 35 balloons that covered an area of about 50,000 square kilometers. Loon has also provided internet services in areas affected by natural disasters, deploying balloons to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and to Peru following an earthquake in 2019.
Teller says Loon is working to place employees in other roles at X, Google and Alphabet. “A small group of Loon’s team will remain to ensure Loon’s operations run smoothly and safely – this includes ending Loon’s pilot service in Kenya,” according to Teller. Loon’s service in Kenya will last until March, a spokesperson for X says The edge. To support those in Kenya who may be impacted by the loss of Loon’s service, Loon is pledging $10 million to support nonprofits and businesses in Kenya dedicated to “connectivity, internet, entrepreneurship and education”.
Loon isn’t the only moonshot Alphabet has stopped. It ended Makani, which aimed to use wind turbines attached to kites to create renewable electricity, last year. And the Foghorn project, which researched how to create clean fuel from seawater, ended its work in 2016.