Google will sell its Terra Bella small-satellite unit to imaging firm

Vega rocket
The Vega rocket successfully launched a multi-payload of satellites for Earth observation in June 2016, including micro-satellites for Google’s Terra Bella.
(Jim Guillon / AFP/Getty Images)

San Francisco Earth-imaging firm Planet will acquire Google’s Terra Bella small satellite business, including the company’s Sky Sat satellite constellation, the two companies announced Friday.

As part of the deal, Google also agreed to a multi-year contract to buy Earth-imaging data from Planet.

Founded in 2010, Planet builds small satellites and operates a so-called constellation for Earth observation. The company plans to launch 88 small satellites on an Indian rocket this month.

Planet said in a blog post that the acquisition will allow the company to diversify its available data and “be able to serve new customers and markets.”


The company said a “significant amount” of Terra Bella’s employees will join Planet once the deal closes, but did not disclose a specific number. 

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Terra Bella was once known as Skybox Imaging, and was acquired by Google in 2014 for $500 million. At the time, Google said the deal would help improve satellite imagery on its digital maps and could eventually help improve and provide Internet access around the world.

But recently, Google seems to be pivoting to sectors where it can dominate. In October, the company halted expansion plans for its high-speed Internet network, Google Fiber.


“When we thought about a company that shares Terra Bella’s passion and strengths in high-frequency satellite imaging, Planet was a natural home,” Jen Fitzpatrick, vice president of product and engineering at Google, said in a statement. “We’re excited to see what’s ahead for Terra Bella, and look forward to being a long-term customer.”

The deal is still subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions that the firms expect could take two to three months.