Google and SpaceX are joining forces in the space race against Facebook and Richard Branson.
SpaceX has raised $1 billion from Google and Fidelity in a deal that values the spaceship manufacturer at about $10 billion, The Associated Press reported Tuesday night. This investment would help Google's plan to bring reliable Internet access to remote areas around the world via satellites.
Although privately held SpaceX didn't reveal any concrete plans, the money could also help founder Elon Musk realize his hopes to fly people to Mars within the next 12 years and eventually build a city on the planet.
Sources recently told the WSJ that this investment values the space rocket maker at more than $10 billion. Currently, SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA, and its spacecraft has been used to deliver goods to the International Space Station.
Just last week, Musk revealed SpaceX's newest venture to build a network of satellites that could accelerate Internet connectivity around the world.
"Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date," Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek. The project can be expected in "sooner than five years," with a price tag of $10 billion, according to Musk.
Google's effort to "organize the world's information" cannot succeed if two-thirds of the world does not have reliable access to this information. So in recent years, Google has experimented with several methods and devices to bring the Internet to unconnected, rural areas. In 2013, it launched Project Loon to send high-altitude helium balloons beaming down Wi-Fi. Last year, it acquired dronemaker Titan Aerospace for $60 million and began testing solar-powered drones to spread internet access.
"Space-based applications, like imaging satellites, can help people more easily access important information, so we're excited to support SpaceX's growth as it develops new launch technologies," Google said in a statement.
In their proclivity for making big, ambitious bets on the future, Musk and Google's co-founders have long been intellectually aligned. At the TED conference last year, Larry Page even said he thought leaving his fortune to Musk in his will would be a better use of it than giving it to any charity.
Facebook has set out on a similar mission to increase Internet connectivity. After losing the bid to acquire Titan Aerospace, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg settled for acquiring dronemaker Ascenta for $20 million, as part of the social network's Internet.org initiative to "beam Internet to people from the sky."
Satellite industry entrepreneur Greg Wyler, who worked for Google's space project briefly last year, has also secured funding for OneWeb, a very similar Internet-via-satellites initiative. OneWeb's most prominent backer is Virgin's Richard Branson.
"I don't think Elon can do a competing thing," Branson told Bloomberg Businessweek. "Greg has the rights, and there isn't space for another network--like there physically is not enough space. If Elon wants to get into this area, the logical thing for him would be to tie up with us, and if I were a betting man, I would say the chances of us working together rather than separately would be much higher."
--The Associated Press contributed to this story.