Google and Virgin – A Deal Made in Spatial Heaven

June 17, 2014 4:41 AM

google and virgin galactic

Sir Richard Branson and Google may be mum on the deal they made about spatial travel and tourism, but word is out that Google wants to buy an equity stake in the billion dollar venture. Branson’s £1.2 billion venture, Virgin Galactic also plans on giving Google access to Virgin’s satellite-launch technology. Sky News reported negotiations between the firms for months and now state the deals are supposedly in an advanced stage. Google will be spending close to £17.8m on the venture in return for 1.5 percent stake in Virgin Galactic.

The joint venture will also see Google assist Virgin to the tune of a hundred million dollars, working favourably for both the firms. Google plans to launch satellites into the low orbits of Earth, to bring internet to places that do not have it. Skybox Imaging, a firm that developed cheap satellites is already making news as Google’s latest acquisition for £297 million. Skybox is known to develop satellites that can take high-quality pictures and videos of the Earth. Facebook and Google faced off earlier in 2014 when Titan Aerospace was up for sale. The firm develops solar-powered unmanned aircraft that can fly non-stop for years, beaming wireless signals from a hundred metres above the ground.

The satellites Skybox develop will help Google launch internet for countries that can afford wired telecommunication networks. In a day and age where the internet is an intimate part of life, few countries in the world still lack the connectivity. Sparse population and weak infrastructure are a barrier to set up connectivity in the regions, but Google still has not figured out a way to launch the satellites into space. LauncherOne, Virgin Galactic’s launch vehicle is the answer to that issue. The LauncherOne, is designed to launch ‘smallsat’ payloads of 100 kg into the Earth’s orbit and is expected to begin the process in 2016 with Skybox Imaging joining others contracted for launches.

On its website, Virgin Galactic stated, “A major advantage of LauncherOne is that we can stage operations from a wide variety of launch sites. Our system allows for a minimal amount of ground infrastructure and the minimum level of range costs for our customers.” Sky News reported that although the deal hasn’t been finalised and could be altered at a later stage, Google’s investment will boost Virgin Galactic to a market value of £1.2 billion. Google like Facebook is trying to connect remote places of the world through internet. Both firms have been strategically acquiring firms in various domains to make it easier for them to be ahead in the race. Facebook is reportedly working with experts from NASA to develop an alternate connectivity aircraft system.

To increase the commercial value of the Virgin Galactic, testing on the Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two is in full swing. The spaceship designed for commercial tourism will take tourists on short tours just above the Earth’s atmosphere. Test flights are currently running out of New Mexico before the world gets to see extended operations. Guess what Stephen Hawking, Tom Hanks, Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie all have in common. They all form a part of Sir Richard Branson’s all-star clientele who coughed up $200,000 to be the first space tourists in history. Keep watching as Branson takes his entrepreneurial spirit to new highs when he gets Lady Gaga to perform her first show that will literally be out-of-this-world.