BY ALEXEI ORESKOVIC
SAN FRANCISCO – Google Inc said on Tuesday it is acquiring satellite company Skybox Imaging for $500 million in cash, the Internet company’s second high-profile acquisition of an aerospace company this year.
Google said that Skybox’s satellites will provide images for Google’s online mapping service. Google, the world’s No.1 Internet search engine, said that Skybox’s technology could also eventually be used to provide Internet access and help with disaster relief.
The acquisition of the five-year old company comes as Google and rival Facebook Inc (FB.O) are racing 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, the world’s No.1 Internet social network, announced in March that 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, which like Google is based in Mountain View, Calif, has launched one satellite and had planned to launch a constellation of 24 satellites, according to the company’s 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 on in its Website on Tuesday in a message announcing the deal with Google.
Google said the deal’s closing is subject to regulatory approvals in the United States.
Shares of Google were down less than 0.5 percent at $568.07 in midday trading on Tuesda