Google loses some satellite talent, even as it steps up aerospace projects

Google has lost three employees with deep expertise in satellite communications, according to reports this week, although it’s not clear what their departures mean for the company’s plans to develop a network of orbiting Internet transmitters to serve remote parts of the world.

Greg Wyler, who previously founded O3b Networks, joined Google earlier this year to help the Internet giant with what’s been described as an ambitious, billion-dollar satellite project. He’s now left Google, according to a report by the news blog, The Information. That report has since been confirmed by the Wall Street Journal, which says Wyler’s colleagues Brian Holz and David Bettinger have also left Google.

No reasons have been given for the departures, although the Journal reports that Wyler “has been spending a lot of time at the office of SpaceX, the space-transport company founded by (Tesla Motors CEO Elon) Musk, and is working closely with Mr. Musk, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.”

Wyler’s previous company, O3b, was named for the “other 3 billion” residents of the planet who don’t currently have reliable Internet access. The Journal reports that he holds the rights to a portion of radio spectrum that could be used to beam Internet signals.

While it’s not clear what the departures mean for Google, the company has shown no signs of slowing in its aerospace endeavors. It bought satellite-maker Skybox Imaging earlier this summer, after previously buying the drone-maker Titan Aerospace, in separate deals that  Google said would expand its aerial technology for mapping and relaying Internet signals.  Google also announced last week that it’s been working to develop drones capable of delivering supplies to disaster areas or packages to consumers.

(Satellite photo taken by Skybox Imaging, which Google bought earlier this year/AP) 

Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (349 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.