Google has acquired two satellite and space related startups in 2014, Titan Aerospace and SkyBox Imaging. The third move by Google might be a minority stake in Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism venture, with the possibility of a future co-op project to launch small satellites in lower-orbit.
The minority stake is not that important, for $30 million Google will gain 1.5 percent of Virgin Galactic, owned by the parent company Virgin. What is important is the next step, Google wants to use Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne spacecraft to send their small satellites into orbit, since they don’t have their own launcher.
This makes Virgin Galactic one of the gatekeepers when it comes to sending space products up into orbit and the deal will give Google leverage over the company. It is interesting that Google has decided to partner with Virgin Galactic over Elon Musk’s Space X, considering they are a more Silicon Valley orientated company.
One of the main reasons could be SkyBox Imaging, the startup Google just acquired for $500 million, were already established partners with Virgin Galactic.
Even though Virgin Galactic’s consumer face is making tourist travels around space, their way to make money on the side is through the LauncherOne and other spacecraft, something a lot of commercial space companies seem interested in.
Google has interesting plans for unconnected parts of the world, already Project Loon is showing good results and the satellites from SkyBox Imaging could lead to even more resources for the four billion people in the world still not on the Internet.
Facebook is another runner in the race trying to get Internet access to unconnected zones of the world. Google looks to be winning the race, considering they acquire Titan Aerospace, a startup Facebook was also interested in and Project Loon shows Google are in this for the long run.
Virgin Galactic will most likely accept the deal for 1.5 percent, considering Google is a valuable asset to have in times of need. In exchange, Google will be able to make SkyBox Imaging and Titan Aerospace’s lives a little easier when it comes to getting their satellites into orbit.