Google (GOOG) Acquires Skybox for a Cool Half-billion Dollars

Google (GOOG) Tuesday agreed to purchase Skybox Imaging Inc, a Silicon Valley startup specializing in collecting high-resolution images from space, for $500 million in cash.

Google plans to use Skybox’s small and its relatively cheap satellites to make better maps “with up-to-date imagery,” the company said in a statement. “Over time, we also hope that Skybox’s team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief—areas Google has long been interested in.”

Google said it is buying Skybox — which according to Inc. magazine [via arstechnica], launched its first satellite into orbit in November 2013 and will launch eight more by the end of 2015 — mainly for its image capabilities, at least initially.

“Skybox and Google share more than just a zip code,” the satellite startup wrote in a blog post. “We both believe in making information (especially accurate geospatial information) accessible and useful. And to do this, we’re both willing to tackle problems head on—whether it’s building cars that drive themselves or designing our own satellites from scratch.”

Tuesday’s announcement comes just two months after Google acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude drones that could help the search giant deliver wireless Internet access to remote parts of the world. In March, meanwhile, Facebook (FB) spent $20 million on Ascenta, a U.K.-based aerospace firm which makes its own solar-powered unmanned aircrafts.

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