Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc has said that it is shutting down Loon.
Loon is an arm of Alphabet that provides internet connectivity through floating helium balloons.
According to a blog post on Alphabet’s X moonshot’s blog, the company stated that:
“The road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped.”
Astro Teller, who leads X, further stated n the blog that:
“In the coming months, we’ll begin winding down operations, and it will no longer be an Other Bet within Alphabet.”
Teller confirms that Loon is working to place employees in other roles at X, Google, and Alphabet.
“A small group of the Loon team will stay to ensure Loon’s operations are wrapped up smoothly and safely — this includes winding down Loon’s pilot service in Kenya,” Teller said.
A spokesperson for X confirmed to reporters that Loon’s service in Kenya will run until March, before its final shutdown.
To support Kenyan businesses and individuals that might be affected by the loss of Loon’s service, the company is pledging $10 million to support nonprofits and businesses in Kenya dedicated to connectivity, internet, entrepreneurship and education.
Loon was launched in June 2013. It then grew from a moonshot to an independent company within Alphabet in 2018.
Loon launched its first commercial internet service in Kenya in July, comprised of a fleet of about 35 balloons that covered an area of around 50,000 square kilometers.
Loon has also provided internet services to areas affected by natural disasters, deploying balloons to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017 and to Peru following an earthquake in 2019.
According to reports, Loon is not the only moonshot that Alphabet has shut down.
Last year, Alphabet shut down Makani, an establishment that aimed to use wind turbines attached to kites to create renewable electricity.
Also, Project Foghorn, which researched how to create clean fuel from seawater, was discontinued in 2016.