Google Buying Satellite Company Skybox for $500 Million in Cash

Google Inc. said it’s acquiring satellite company Skybox Imaging Inc. for $500 million as it works to bolster its mapping services and improve Internet access.

The all-cash deal is subject to adjustments, the Mountain View, California-based company said on its website yesterday. Skybox has designed satellites to capture images and deliver them to customers with details down to less than a meter.

“Skybox’s satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery,” Google said on its site. “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 is scouring the technology universe for deals that push into new markets and bolster its traditional services, including mapping and search. The company is also looking for new ways to offer online services to users through Project Loon, which it unveiled last year to help connect people in rural or remote areas to the Web using balloons and other machinery.

In April, Google said it bought Titan Aerospace, a maker of high-altitude, solar-powered drones that provide access to data services around the world.

“They’re just growing the number of eyeballs and clicks potentially by billions,” said Scott Hubbard, a consulting professor at Stanford University in aeronautics and astronautics. “That has to be good for them.”

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The acquisitions follows moves by rival Facebook Inc. to get more people on the Internet through an effort called Connectivity Lab. In March, the company acquired Ascenta, a U.K.-based aerospace company, which will transmit data using infrared laser. The social network paid less than $20 million for Ascenta, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Earlier this month, Facebook also said it was buying Pryte, a provider of technology that lets smartphone users download applications using temporary mobile data allowances. The service from the Helsinki-based company is aimed at people in developing markets with higher mobile Internet costs.

Skybox, also based in Mountain View, has designed satellites to capture images and deliver them to customers in industries that include agriculture, mining and insurance. For example, satellite imagery could help monitor crop health.

The company, whose initial business plan was written in 2009, has a team of more than 100 people led by Chief Executive Officer Tom Ingersoll, according to its website. In addition to providing images and video, the company also offers analytics.

“The time is right to join a company who can challenge us to think even bigger and bolder, and who can support us in accelerating our ambitious vision,” Skybox said on its site yesterday.

Skybox’s investors include Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Canaan Partners and Norwest Venture Partners. It has raised more than $85 million.

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