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

A screen grab of Terra Bella’s website

Google has recently been realigning its business, begininnig with the formation of Alphabet as an overarching parent company, and it's likely that owning its own satellite imaging rather than licensing it from a dedicated provider is part of that ongoing rationalization of its various lines of business.

Alphabet Inc.'s Google is selling its satellite business to competitor Planet Labs Inc. for shares in the startup, in a move to simplify Google's sprawling operations. Once the sale is closed, Google will purchase Planet's earth-imaging data over several years.

"It's a big deal", said Will Marshall, Planet's chief executive officer.

"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. The source also said Google will be a major shareholder in Planet Labs and continue to be invested in Terra Bella's success long-term.


The deal also means some organizational changes for both companies, Marshall added.

Separate from its acquisition of Terra Bella, Planet has been making some ambitious plans as of late. This will be the largest single launch of satellites at one time in history, and is now scheduled for February 14. This is part of a greater plan by Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat, who has reshaped the company's myriad and often fanciful interests in futuristic technology with a more fiscal focus. Specifically, Alphabet has singled out its robotics, self-driving vehicle, and drone arms, to name a few, as being of lesser importance.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, though in TechCrunch's original reporting a potential price for Climate Corporation, another prospective buyer, was said to be set at $300 million.

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