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January 11, 2017

Alphabet looking to sell Skybox Imaging satellite unit

Planet Labs could acquire Skybox and add new employees from the agreement.

By CBR Staff Writer

Google’s parent company Alphabet is mulling over the sale of its SkyBox Imaging satellite business, which it acquired in 2014 for about $500m.

Planet, a satellite imaging startup formerly known as Planet Labs, may acquire Alphabet’s satellite-imagery unit, which was renamed Terra Bella last year.

Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported that several employees from the Alphabet division would move to Planet as part of the agreement. Other employees could be offered different positions at Google.

Discussions are focused on a potential cash plus equity deal, sources said.  Planet is planning to raise funds to help finance the agreement and pay for continuing operations.

Terra Bella offers commercial high-resolution Earth observation satellite imagery, high-definition video and analytics services. It uses data from space to solve problems on Earth.

The company’s satellites are claimed to capture video clips lasting up to 90 seconds at 30 frames per second.

Terra Bella is working with a range of geospatial data sources, machine learning capabilities, and experts in building spacecraft.

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The company uses a two-dimensional sensor array with an image filter to capture a higher quality images by taking several frames per second and stitching them on the ground.

The first two satellites of Terra Bella’s constellation were launched in November 2013 and July 2014.

Bloomberg noted that the latest move indicates an ambitious agenda for Planet, which has raised over $150m in funding.

Alphabet on the other hand has been scaling down plans for worldwide internet satellite network.

It was revealed in October 2016 that Alphabet is laying off about 9% of staff from its Fiber fast internet service, which employs about 1,500 people.

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