Google & Virgin Galactic may team up for joint space venture

A Virgin Galactic craft.

Above: A Virgin Galactic craft.

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Google wants to bring Internet access to the entire world — and it’s reportedly in talks with Virgin Galactic to help realize that vision.

The Internet giant and the space tourism company are mulling a major partnership that would see Google pour hundreds of millions into a joint venture, with Virgin Galactic providing tech it developed for its space tourism business, reports Sky News. The deal would also involve Google plunking down around $30 million in return for a roughly 1.5% stake in the Virgin Galactic holding company, according to an unnamed source “close to Google,” who told Sky News the investment could value Virgin Galactic at as much as $2 billion.

The two companies have reportedly been talking about the alliance for months. The discussions are said to be at “an advanced stage,” though Google and Virgin Galactic have yet to finalize the terms of the deal.

Reports suggest Google plans to lace the sky with at least 180 net-providing satellites that would enable folks in the developing world to access the web. Earlier this week, Google confirmed its $500 million purchase of satellite startup Skybox.

Google’s not pinning all its hopes on satellites, however. The tech giant also plans to expand access to the worldwide web with solar-powered drones (courtesy of recently-acquired Titan Aerospace) and balloons. While Google surely believes that’s a good thing for the developing world, its motives are not altruistic — more people on the web means more consumers of Google services and advertising.

Virgin Galactic’s space tourism business has suffered years of delays. Virgin entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson insists the first flight will take place this year.

Asked for comment on the Virgin Galactic deal, the Google press team told VentureBeat, “We don’t comment on rumor and speculation.”

More information:

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS, is on track to be the world's first commercial spaceline. The new spaceship (SpaceshipTwo, VSS Enterprise) and carrier craft (WhiteKnightTwo, VMS E... read more »

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