Google will acquire satellite company Skybox Imaging for US$500 million (A$533 million) in cash, the company announced today, marking its second high-profile acquisition of an aerospace company this year.
Google said Skybox's satellites will provide images for Google's online mapping service. Skybox's technology could also eventually be used to provide internet access and help with disaster relief, the search giant said.
The acquisition of the five-year old company comes as Google and rival Facebook race to snap up satellite and drone companies in an expensive effort to expand the reach of their businesses.
In April Google acquired Titan Aerospace, a New Mexico-based maker of solar-powered drones, for an undisclosed sum. Google has also launched a small network of balloons designed to deliver internet access over the Southern Hemisphere.
Facebook announced in March it had created a special "Connectivity lab" project tasked with developing satellites, drones and other technology that could be used to beam internet connectivity to people in underdeveloped parts of the world.
Skybox has built satellites packed with sensors and camera electronics that take high-resolution images and video of the earth, but which it says are smaller and lighter than traditional satellites.
The company has launched one satellite and had planned to launch a constellation of 24 satellites, according to its website.
"The time is right to join a company who can challenge us to think even bigger and bolder, and who can support us in accelerating our ambitious vision," Skybox said in a statement today.
The deal's closing is subject to regulatory approvals in the United States. Shares of Google were down less than 0.5 percent at US$568.07 in midday trading.