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Google Sells Satellite Imaging Business Terra Bella To Planet

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Planet Labs has confirmed its acquisition of Google's Terra Bella satellite imaging division, which includes SkySat constellation that has seven high resolution satellites. 

On Friday, Will Marshall - the CEO and co-founder of Terra Bella - officially confirmed the deal with Google. Marshall shared that Planet has long admired Terra Bella's achievements. The company believes that the SkySat constellation of satellites will compliment Planet's existing satellite fleet. 

John Fenwick, the co-founder of Terra Bella, noted that both Planet and Terra Bella share a similar vision in the field of aerospace technology. Although, the satellites of Terra Bella and Planet are different, they bring unique capabilities as a whole. 

Planet has dozens of satellites in low orbit and the company sells images taken from these satellites. However, the images taken from the satellites are of low resolution. The acquisition of larger Terra Bella satellites will enable Planet to take high resolution images. However, with only seven high resolution satellites, the company's photo-taking frequency will be limited. 

A previous Wall Street Journal report shared that Planet's low resolution images from its satellites made it difficult for the company to attract new customers. The Terra Bella acquisition will enable Planet to lure more customers in the near term. 

In 2014, Google acquired Terra Bella - previously called Skybox Imaging - for $500 million in a bid to boost Google Maps. As part of the multi-year deal, Planet Labs can sell Earth-imaging data to Google.  

"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 at 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." 

Planet has not disclosed the terms of the deal but according to an older Bloomberg report, Alphabet may own stake in Planet for the sale of Google imaging software.  

Trevor Hammond, a Planet spokesman, revealed that some Terra Berra employees will join the company. Although, Hammond confirmed that a significant number of Terra Bella employees will join Planet, he declined to reveal the exact number.  

The latest deal with Google is very significant for Planet Labs; however, this is not the first acquisition the company has made. In 2015, Planet acquired BlackBridge, a company that operated a smal fleet of five remote sensing satellites. The capabilities of BlackBridge's satellites are similar to Planet's own satellites.

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