Monday, February 6, 2017

Google just sold Terra Bella, its eye in the sky

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Back in 2014, Google acquired the satellite imaging company Terra Bella, then known as Skybox Imaging, for around $500 million. The company is in the business of manufacturing small satellites that are used to capture high-quality images of Earth and provide data for Google Maps, among others. Skybox/Terra Bella’s stint at Google/Alphabet just came to an end, as Alphabet announced it would be sold to Planet Labs.


Planet Labs is a private satellite operator based in San Francisco and was founded by NASA scientists. In order to diversify its available data and solutions, the company has acquired Terra Bella along with the SkySat constellation of satellites. As soon as the deal gets regulatory approvals in the US, Google will enter into a multi-year contract with Planet Labs to purchase Earth-imaging data that it will continue to use in its products.


When we thought about a company that shares Terra Bella’s passion and strengths in high-frequency satellite imaging, Planet was a natural home. Terra Bella has accomplished a lot in the past two years—including the design and launch of five more satellites. We’re excited to see what’s ahead for Terra Bella, and look forward to being a long-term customer. — Jen Fitzpatrick, VP of Product and Engineering, Google.





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In an official blog post, Planet Labs states that the acquisition will help them serve new customers as well as expand to new markets. A number of Terra Bella employees will now join Planet Labs and will continue the work they have been doing so far within the new organization.


The company also mentioned that the addition of the SkySat constellation of 7 high resolution satellites will work well with their existing fleet of 60 medium resolution satellites. These can provide global coverage at 3-5 meter resolution, whereas the newly added satellites can enable regularly updated snapshots of select areas of the globe at sub-meter resolution.

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