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Planet Labs acquires Google’s Terra Bella

Google’s parent company Alphabet has signed an agreement to sell its remote sensing business, Terra Bella. Formerly known as Skybox Imaging, Terra Bella’s existing staff and its SkySat satellite constellation will now shift into the hands of satellite imagery provider Planet Labs, also known as Planet.

As described in the recent feature article “The race for alternative remote sensing accelerates“, Planet Labs has been busy since 2010 developing low-cost ‘cube-sat’ style satellites and is well on the way to achieving its goal of imaging every point on Earth once a day. The existing SkySat constellation of seven sub-metre resolution satellites will now complement Planet Lab’s existing 3-5 metre resolution fleet of 60 satellites. The agreement will see the two systems operated under one roof and is expected to enable valuable new capabilities.

As part of the agreement, Google will also enter into a multi-year contract to purchase Earth-imaging data from Planet Labs. A number of Terra Bella employees will also join the Planet Labs team.

One of Planet Lab’s ‘Dove’ satellites covered in artwork.

“When we thought about a company that shares Terra Bella’s passion and strengths in high frequency satellite imaging, Planet was a natural home,” said Jen Fitzpatrick, VP of Product and Engineering, Google. “Terra Bella has accomplished a lot in the past two years—including the design and launch of five more satellites. We’re excited to see what’s ahead for Terra Bella, and look forward to being a long-term customer.”

Terra Bella Co-Founder John Fenwick sees the move as a “continuation” of the Terra Bella mission.

“From the start, Planet and Terra Bella have shared similar visions and approached aerospace technology from a like-minded position, and while our on-orbit assets and data are different, together we bring unique and valuable capabilities to users,” he said. “Planet and Terra Bella together enables the continuation of our mission and makes for an ever-stronger business.”

With this acquisition, rapid business growth, and the largest launches yet for both Terra Bella and Planet, 2017 is scheduled to be a big year for remote sensing.

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