Apple hires a couple Google satellite executives for reported hardware project

Apple has hired former Google satellite executives John Fenwick and Michael Trela, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The two might’ve been in the market for new gigs, given that Google recently sold off its own in-house satellite imaging business (which came through an acquisition of Fenwick’s former company Skybox) to Planet Labs, apparently happy to act as a client of that imagery rather than its own satellite network operator.

The more interesting question is what Apple would be doing that would require Fenwick, Google’s former space ops lead, and Trela, who oversaw satellite engineering at the search giant. Bloomberg suggests a number of possibilities, under the broad potential mandates of helping with efforts on Apple’s part to build or operate satellite tech for either imaging or communications.

The report also notes that Apple has talked to Boeing about being part of the aerospace company’s plan to offer broadband access via a network of around 1,000 satellites deployed to low-earth orbit. Tesla has a similar plan, which it hopes to use to help fund its larger space ambitions, including plans to bring humans to extra-terrestrial colonial destinations.

The new Google satellite execs employed by Apple won’t necessarily even work on satellites, the report notes, and they’ll fall under the supervision of former Dropcam founder Greg Duffy, who also joined Apple from an Alphabet owned company following Nest’s acquisition of Dropcam.

Bottom line: Fenwick and Trela are very smart people with a wealth of knowledge of experience, and they’re likely to be seen as assets by Apple regardless of any committed intent to pursue building space technology. Still, very interesting hires indeed.