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Balloons rise up on the strato-frontier

Project Loon
Project Loon’s balloons are getting better at staying in one place. (Credit: Project Loon via YouTube)

Drones, satellites and rocket planes are all well and good for high-flying missions, but sometimes the best craft for the job is a balloon.

Google’s Project Loon, for example, is enlisting machine learning to pilot its experimental data-beaming balloons through the stratosphere. And other ventures are using high-altitude balloon platforms to conduct missions traditionally associated with suborbital rocket launches.

Get a quick rundown on three ventures that are pushing the envelope.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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