Google is today confirming that it has purchased Skybox Imaging, the satellite startup that we reported it was close to acquiring last month. The price is somewhat lower than we had heard it would be: $500 million rather than close to the $1 billion our sources had told us.
Once the deal closes, Skybox’s employees will wear a few different hats. Mainly, they will be a part of the Access and Energy team. They will continue launching satellites and work closely with the Google’s Geo team to improve imagery in Google’s products. They will also longer term look at how satellite tech could contribute to Google’s Internet access work, alongside Google’s Loon project and Titan Aerospace.
In Skybox’s announcement, the company touts the fact that its satellites are the world’s smallest — and also that they are already actively collecting data.
From Skybox’s blog:
We’ve built and launched the world’s smallest high-resolution imaging satellite, which collects beautiful and useful images and video every day. We have built an incredible team and empowered them to push the state-of-the-art in imaging to new heights. The time is right to join a company who can challenge us to think even bigger and bolder, and who can support us in accelerating our ambitious vision.
Skybox and Google share more than just a zip code. We both believe in making information (especially accurate geospatial information) accessible and useful. And to do this, we’re both willing to tackle problems head on — whether it’s building cars that drive themselves or designing our own satellites from scratch.
Google had this to say:
We’ve agreed to acquire Skybox and we look forward to welcoming them to Google. Their satellites will help keep our maps accurate with up-to-date imagery. Over time, we also hope that Skybox’s team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in.
Some of that disaster relief work comes under a business division at Google called “Earth Enterprise,” which provides mapping data for large organizations, institutions and businesses.
“Google Earth Enterprise allows you to store and process terabytes of imagery, terrain and vector data on your own server infrastructure, and publish maps securely for your users to view using Google Earth desktop or mobile apps, or through your own application using the Google Maps API,” the division notes on its home page.
Google does not go into any detail in the announcement about Skybox’s launch schedule, but the bigger plan at the company had been for the next satellite launch to take place this summer as part of an ambitious plan to launch many more satellites in the future.