Terra Bella

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Terra Bella
Formerly called
Skybox Imaging
Industry Information Services
Founded January 2009
Headquarters Mountain View, California
Area served
Services Satellite imagery, video, and analytics of Earth
Number of employees
Parent Planet Labs
Website terrabella.google.com

Terra Bella (formerly Skybox Imaging) is a Planet Labs subsidiary providing commercial high-resolution Earth observation satellite imagery, high-definition video and analytics services.[1] The Mountain View, California-based company was founded in 2009 by Dan Berkenstock, Julian Mann, John Fenwick, and Ching-Yu Hu,[2] and was acquired by Google in 2014.[3] On April 18, 2017, Google completed the sale of Terra Bella and its SkySat satellite constellation to Planet Labs and entered into a multi-year agreement to purchase SkySat imaging data.[4][5][1]


The resolution of the SkySat satellite imagery and videos is high enough to observe objects that impact the global economy such as terrain, cars and shipping containers. Terra Bella says its satellites can capture video clips lasting up to 90 seconds at 30 frames per second.[6] The high-definition satellite video from SkySat satellites “could help us understand our world better by analyzing movement of goods and people, providing visual data about supply chains, shipping, industrial plant activity, and even humanitarian relief efforts.”[6]

The company's goal is to be able to provide high-resolution satellite imagery of any place on Earth multiple times a day.[7] Skybox planned to “change the nature” of the satellite industry by building satellites with “off-the-shelf” electronics that cost under $50 million.[8]

Satellite constellation[edit]

The SkySat satellites are based on the CubeSat concept with optimized design using inexpensive automotive grade electronics,[9] as well as fast commercially available processors. The cameras use two-dimensional imaging sensors.


By April 2012 Skybox Imaging had raised a total of US$91 million of private capital from Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Canaan Partners and Norwest Venture Partners.[7]

On November 21, 2013, their first satellite, SkySat-1, was launched on a Dnepr rocket from Yasny, Russia.[10] On July 8, 2014, Skybox's second satellite, SkySat-2, launched on a Soyuz-2/Fregat rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.[11] The company plans to eventually launch a fleet of 24 satellites.[12]

On December 11, 2013, the first images captured by the SkySat-1 satellite, of Perth, Abu Dhabi, and the coast of Somalia, were released.[13] On July 10, 2014, the first images captured by SkySat-2 were released within 48 hours of launch.[14]

On February 10, 2014, SSL announced that Skybox had awarded SSL a contract to build 13 satellites based on a revised "SkySat C" design.[15][16] The first of these, Skysat-3, also referred to as SkySat-C1, was launched on June 22, 2016 by ISRO on PSLV flight C34,[17][18] with contract for four more satellites to launch.[19][not in citation given] Arianespace was contracted to launch four Skybox Imaging satellites in 2016, using the Vega small launch vehicle,[20] and Orbital ATK will launch six in 2017 with their Minotaur-C rocket.[16] In April of that year, they were named no. 1 on Inc. magazine's 25 Most Audacious Companies in 2014.[21]

On June 10, 2014, Skybox Imaging announced that it had entered into an agreement to be acquired by Google for US$500 million.[22][23] The acquisition was completed on August 1, 2014.[23][3]

On March 8, 2016, Google announced that Skybox Imaging had changed its name to "Terra Bella", to indicate its focus on image analytics.[24] The new name was partially based on the Terra Bella Ave. in Mountain View, California, where the company's headquarters are located.[25]

Four more SkySat units were launched on 16 September 2016 by the Vega rocket's seventh flight from Kourou.[26]


  1. ^ a b "Terra Bella Officially Joins Planet". planet.com. Retrieved 18 April 2017. 
  2. ^ Perry, Tekla S. (1 May 2013). "Start-up Profile: Skybox Imaging". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Henry, Caleb (2014-08-05). "Google Closes Skybox Imaging Purchase". Via Satellite. Retrieved 2014-08-10. 
  4. ^ "Google sells satellite imaging business Terra Bella to Planet Labs". Reuters. 3 February 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  5. ^ "Planet to Acquire Terra Bella from Google, Sign Multi-Year Data Contract" (Press release). Planet Labs. 3 February 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Wogan, David (30 December 2013). "High-definition video from space is available for purchase. Finally". Scientific American. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Burns, Matt (17 April 2012). "Skybox Imaging Raises $70M To Launch Two High-Res Imaging Microsatellites". TechCrunch. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  8. ^ Truong, Alice (11 December 2013). "Proof That Cheaper Satellites Still Can Take Incredibly Detailed Photos of Earth". Fast Company. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  9. ^ http://www.skybox.com/technology#satellite-sensors
  10. ^ Clark, Stephen. "Silo-launched Dnepr rocket delivers 32 satellites to space". Website. Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  11. ^ Hearn, Mark. "Skybox Imaging successfully launches its SkySat-2 Earth observation satellite". Website. 9to5Google. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Eisenberg, Anne (10 August 2013). "Microsatellites: What Big Eyes They Have". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  13. ^ Truong, Alice. "Proof That Cheaper Satellites Still Can Take Incredibly Detailed Photos Of Earth". Website. Fast Company. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Henry, Caleb. "Skybox Imaging Releases First Images from SkySat 2". Website. Satellite Today. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Skybox Imaging Selects SSL To Build 13 Low Earth Orbit Imaging Satellites". sslmda.com. 10 February 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  16. ^ a b "Terra Bella Evaluating Launches for Eight SkySats by 2017". Satellite Today. Access Intelligence. 6 April 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  17. ^ "SkySat-3 First Light". Terra Bella Blog. Google, Inc. 28 June 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  18. ^ "International Assortment of Satellites lifted by Indian PSLV Rocket". Spaceflight101.com. 22 June 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  19. ^ "VIKRAM SARABHAI SPACE CENTRE - PSLV". ISRO. Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "Vega To Launch Skybox Satellites - SpaceNews.com". spacenews.com. 17 March 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  21. ^ "25 Companies That Are Changing the World". Inc. 23 April 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  22. ^ "Alphabet Investor Relations". google.com. 9 June 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2016. 
  23. ^ a b "Skybox Imaging + Google". 8 June 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2016. 
  24. ^ Lardinois, Frederic (8 March 2016). "Google renames its satellite startup, Skybox Imaging, to Terra Bella and adds focus on image analysis". TechCrunch. AOL Inc. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  25. ^ Protalinski, Emil (8 March 2016). "Google rebrands Skybox as Terra Bella, will launch ‘more than a dozen satellites’ over the next few years". VentureBeat. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  26. ^ Clark, Stephen (16 September 2016). "Vega rocket hauls up quintet of Earth observation satellites". Spaceflight Now. 

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