FlightAware Discussions

Project Loon Rides Again!

Are you seeing balloons at 58,000 ft? Those are Project Loon balloons.They were launched earlier today from Winnemucca, NV. The five balloons that were launched earlier were seen floating over Central California towards the Santa Barbara Coast close to 60, 000 ft at times. They are all heading west over the Pacific Ocean…

June 21, 2020, Sara Sandrik, https://abc30.com/valley-balloons-high-altitude-central/6258254/

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There are lots of them floating about.

The Flightradar24 web page shows them quite easily.

They are currently seen over North and South America, Africa and one over Northern Australia.


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You can find it almost all days over the globe. It’s not that they stop and start, they are there all the time on different locations.

OK. Someone asked me if I knew where the Loon Balloons were being launched from here in the states. After a little research, I found they are being launched from a small airport in Winnemucca, NV. For those inquiring minds, here is the answer.

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Spotting a Project Loon balloon was pretty cool when I first saw it, but as an aside, they also represent a huge problem - those balloons are flying with helium.


It’s a big deal because helium is used in many high tech and now essential applications and we are blowing through the earth’s supply. Project Loon isn’t helping.

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That is terrible. I did not know that. Thank you fo r that information. Shouldn’t we stop people from using helium for party balloons too?

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That’s above my pay grade to say we should stop them. I definitely think they should stop, though. I wish they would do it on their own. I don’t know what they do to reclaim helium or what engineering considerations led them to use helium, though. As that article points out, they could carry more for much less if they used hydrogen, but there may be reasons they need helium. On the other hand, we have essentially a very finite supply of helium (it is produced naturally but extremely slowly as uranium decays) and a lot of applications.

It’s a double-edge sword, though. This looks like a service they are wanting to do a lot of. It’s not a catalytic reaction to destroy ozone like the halogens in chlorofluorocarbons have, but hydrogen also eats ozone. It’s either deplete the helium supply or do some level of damage to the ozone layer.

I wish they would just decide it’s impractical and stop.

FlightRadar24 consistently shows more balloons than FlightAware because FlightRadar24 puts satellite tracked objects on their free public feed. FlightAware shows only balloons over, or very close to, land-based ADS-B receivers.
Be aware that ADS-B satellite reception coverage on FlightRadar24 is sporadic so balloons can still disappear and reappear multiple times per day.