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SkySat satellites
An artist’s conception shows Terra Bella’s SkySat satelltes in orbit. (Terra Bella Illustration)

Planet Labs says it has struck a deal to acquire Google’s Terra Bella satellite imaging operation and its constellation of SkySat satellites, less than three years after Google bought the operation for $500 million.

Financial terms for the acquisition weren’t announced.

The deal includes a multi-year contract under which San Francisco-based Planet would sell satellite data to Google.

“We’ve long admired what the the team at Terra Bella has achieved, and we think the SkySat constellation of 7 high-resolution satellites is highly complementary to Planet’s existing medium resolution 60-satellite fleet,” Will Marshall, Planet’s co-founder and CEO said in today’s announcement.

Terra Bella’s satellites take pictures of selected areas of the globe at a resolution that’s better than 1 meter per pixel, while Planet’s Dove satellites provide global coverage at resolutions of 3 to 5 meters.

Marshall said a number of Terra Bella employees would join Planet to continue their work.

“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, Google’s vice president of product and engineering.

Terra Bella had been known as Skybox Imaging before its acquisition by Google in 2014.

Most of Planet’s more than 360 employees work in San Francisco, but the six-year-old startup also has offices in Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and in Bellevue, Wash. The Bellevue office, which was opened late last year, focuses on developing the software platform for distributing satellite imagery.

Other Seattle-area satellite ventures include Spaceflight Industries and its BlackSky subsidiary, which is building up its own Earth-imaging constellation; and Planetary Resources, which is working on its Ceres satellites for Earth observation.

In addition to being a competitor, Spaceflight has served as one of Planet’s launch facilitators.


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