Spaceward ho! Google may team up with Virgin Galactic

While many Silicon Valley companies are placing their future in the cloud, Google is setting its sights a bit higher — way above the clouds. In the wake of recent deals for drones and satellites, the Mountain View tech giant is now reportedly seeking a partnership with Richard Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

The UK’s Sky News is reporting Google would pour “hundreds of millions of dollars” into the joint venture, and would seek a $30 million equity stake in the company, which hopes to start commercial space flights later this year.

Talks have been ongoing for months and are at an “advanced stage,” Sky News reported, though terms have not yet been finalized.

Google’s interest would apparently be less in Virgin Galactic’s space vacations — which have been pre-sold to celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber for $250,000 a pop — and more for its delivery capabilities to launch a fleet of satellites.

Google is hard at work on a number of ways to deliver the Internet (and gain the accompanying new customers and ad revenue) to the far ends of the Earth. Its most ambitious plan, first reported earlier this month, would cost billions of dollars and ring the planet with 180 low-orbit satellites to beam Internet service to remote areas.

That would be in addition to Google’s previous space ambitions, which include:

Project Loon, a Google project that would use transmitters on high-altitude helium balloons to deliver Internet service to less-developed parts of the world.

Its April purchase of Titan Aerospace, the New Mexico maker of high-altitude, solar-powered drones that could be part of Project Loon Internet delivery, as well as take images for Google Maps and Google Earth.

– Tuesday’s $500 million purchase of Skybox Imaging, the Mountain View satellite startup that specializes in high-resolution aerial images and videos.

 

At top: Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, seen in 2009. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Mike Murphy Mike Murphy (359 Posts)

Mike Murphy is a web producer at the Mercury News, and also writes for Good Morning Silicon Valley and 60-Second Business Break.