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A satellite exec is taking over Project Loon, the internet balloon program born at Google

Tom Moore, an SVP from ViaSat, is taking the reins.

Project Loon test in New Zealand

There’s another executive mix in the Alphabet soup.

Tom Moore, a senior VP at the broadband satellite company ViaSat, is taking the reins at Project Loon, the ambitious effort to string high-altitude balloons into a global internet network.

Mike Cassidy, a serial entrepreneur who has helmed the project for the past two years, is stepping down from the position but remaining at X, the company under Google parent Alphabet that houses the project.

Recode had previously heard that Cassidy was stepping away from the project, which has yet to deliver a commercial product. But we didn’t have all the details.

The hiring of Moore, a communications industry veteran, signals that the project may become more reliant on satellite networks. Moore’s company, WildBlue Communication, which he founded in 1998, was acquired by ViaSat in 2009.

It’s also a similar pattern to other parts of Google’s far-fetched research lab. The Alphabet arm has hired leaders with commercial experience as they try to turn their projects from science experiments to viable operations. In the fall, they hired a former Hyundai exec to run its self-driving car unit.

Still, the Alphabet divisions have lost some key executives over the past year.

Astro Teller, the head of X, had this to say in a statement about the new hire: “Under Mike’s scrappy, entrepreneurial leadership, Loon moved from science project to viable venture, and Tom’s valuable industry experience will help launch us into the commercial stage of this moonshot.”

Mike Cassidy, VP, Loon (second from right); Sergey Brin, President, Alphabet (far right) in October

In the fall, Loon announced it was starting testing with carriers in Indonesia, its fourth country partner, despite technical hurdles that nearly nixed the project.

Cassidy said in March that Loon was “getting close” to commercial deployment. Cassidy took over the project in the fall of 2014, after spending three years as a director at the Google X research lab.

He arrived at Google after an entrepreneurial streak, founding and selling three startups. His fourth, an online travel guide called Ruba, became a part of Google in 2010.

Moore will start in mid-September as a VP at X, the company said.

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