Google eyes stake in space venture ‘Virgin Galactic’

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Recent reports suggest Google is interested in buying an equity stake in Sir Richard Branson’s £1.2 billion space tourism project, Virgin Galactic.

According to a report from Sky News, Google is in advanced talks with Virgin Galactic over a deal that would offer the search engine giant an access to Virgin’s satellite-launch technology.

As part of the deal, the company will be spending around £17.8 million ($30 million) for a 1.5 percent stake in the space tourism venture. Google and Virgin Galactic are yet to comment on the report.

In addition, the company is also planning to invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” into a joint venture with Virgin Galactic to launch hundreds of satellites into low-Earth orbit in an attempt to spread internet to parts of the world that are currently unconnected.

The internet giant’s investment would value Virgin Galactic at more than £1.2 billion, the report said.

The news comes in time when Google on Thursday revealed that it’s acquiring Skybox Imaging, a startup that specializes in photos taken by satellites, for $500 million.

The company in a statement said the acquisition will “help keep Google 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.”

The company in April also acquired drone maker Titan Aerospace, which develops solar-powered unmanned aircraft, to help further Project Loon, the company’s initiative to launch high-altitude Wi-Fi balloons.