Google looks to space with Virgin Galactic
Google is in talks to acquire a $30 million (£18 million) stake in Virgin Galactic, according to Sky News.
While most investments in the commercial spaceflight company have focused on its main “space tourism” mission, it would seem Google’s interest is more in line with its own current projects – specifically the scheme to bring the internet to unconnected areas via satellite.
Sky reports that, in addition to Google’s plan to buy a 1.5% stake in Virgin Galactic, the two companies may form a joint venture, with Google investing “hundreds of millions of dollars” and Virgin Galactic folding in “technology it has developed as part of its efforts to build the world’s first space tourism business”.
Google yesterday announced it had acquired Skybox Imaging, a producer of high-resolution, lightweight satellites, for $500 million (£295 million).
It said it’s looking “to help improve internet access and disaster relief,” although the technology will at first be used to improve Google Maps’ satellite imagery.
Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported the company was planning to invest more than $1 billion (£597 million) in developing and launching up to 360 small, high capacity satellites into orbit, also with the aim of increasing internet coverage around the world.
Virgin Galactic’s “SpaceShips” will, if all goes according to plan, carry out sub-orbital spaceflight, meaning its trajectory brings it back to Earth before it has completed a full orbit of the planet.
Virgin Galactic has developed a vehicle, called LauncherOne, to launch small satellites. It’s expected to become operational in 2016, and Skybox has already signed up.