Google reportedly in talks for stake in Virgin Galactic

Days after announcing it agreed to buy a satellite startup, Google appears to be making another bet on space.

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Virgin Galactic/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Google's push in the space race continues.

According to a report by Sky News, the search giant is in "advanced talks" for a stake in Virgin Galactic, the ambitious space tourism project backed by billionaire Richard Branson.

The report says Google will spend $30 million for a minority stake in the company, and pump "hundreds of millions of dollars" into a joint venture that would give Google access to Virgin Galactic's technology. The investment would value Virgin Galactic at around $2 billion.

Google declined to comment on the report.

The news comes after Google announced Tuesday that it's acquiring Skybox Imaging, a startup that specializes in photos taken by satellites, for $500 million. While Google said that acquisition would bolster the accuracy of its Maps service with high-quality up-to-date images, the company also pointed to more ambitious plans focusing on improving Internet access.

The added fire power of a Virgin Galactic investment would fuel Google's plans to launch hundreds of satellites into low-flying orbit around the Earth, according to the report. Google has already put pieces in place in its plan to expand Internet access to less-connected places. The company in April purchased drone maker Titan Aerospace to help further Project Loon, the company's initiative to launch high-altitude Wi-Fi balloons.

Google isn't alone in its quest to use aerial technology to extend its reach and business operations. Other companies have been investing in getting more people online as a means of being able to offer services to larger populations.

Facebook has also focused on developing drones and satellites as a means for beaming Internet connectivity to more people. In March, the company announced a new lab dedicated to developing that technology. The effort is in line with the mission of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Internet.org, which aims to bring the Web to everyone in the world.

 

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