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.

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, which aims to bring the Web to everyone in the world.

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