Google is in talks with Virgin Galactic about a deal that will hand it crucial access to satellite-launch technology and an equity stake in Sir Richard Branson’s $2 billion (£1.2 billion) space tourism venture. Sky News says that the discussions with Virgin Galactic are part of Google’s ambitious project to put hundreds of satellites in low-Earth orbit in an attempt to extend Internet access to billions of people. Negotiations between the two companies have been taking place for months, and are said to be at an advanced stage.
Skybox’s satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery.
Google on its recent acquisition of Skybox
The talks are likely to lead to a deal with two main elements, according to insiders. The first will see Google inject hundreds of millions of dollars into a joint venture, with Virgin Galactic folding in the technology it has developed as part of its efforts to build the world’s first space tourism business. The second component will involve Google spending roughly $30 million (£17.8 million) in return for a small stake in the Virgin Galactic holding company. The deal could be reputationally valuable for Virgin Galactic, which has had to defend itself against frequent suggestions that problems with its development will curb its viability.