Search giant Google (GOOGL) is reportedly in “advanced talks” to take a stake in Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s $2 billion spaceflight company, Sky News reported.
The deal would help Google gain crucial access to Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne, a suborbital rocket capable of launching satellites into space within a few years, and would further the company’s ambitions to put a network of satellites into low Earth orbit with a view of beaming broadband from space.
The report says that Google plans to 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”. Google would also spend about $30 million for a 1.5% stake in Branson’s company.
The news comes three days after Google bought satellite startup Skybox Imaging for $500 million, in an effort to gain more satellite technology. Google also recently devoted at least $1 billion to develop a satellite program which through the projected lunch of 180 small low Earth satellites would provide web access to areas of the world that currently have little or no Internet access.
Facebook (FB) is another company who has also been rumored to be looking into providing wireless Internet access in remote areas. In March, the social networking giant spent $20 million on Ascenta, a U.K.-based aerospace firm which makes its own solar-powered unmanned aircrafts. Obviously, extending web access to the billions of people who do not currently have it contains powerful commercial incentives for both companies since the vast majority of their earnings comes from Web search advertising, which should only increase as web access becomes more widespread.