John Fenwick, who led Google's spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering have left the company for a new hardware team at Apple which reports to Greg Duffy, co-founder of Dropcam.
Fenwick co-founded Skybox Imaging in 2009 while Trela joined soon after as the company's first outside hire, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Skybox produced satellites about the size of a refrigerator, equipped to take detailed, near-constant images of the earth's surface. Prior to entering the startup world, Fenwick served in the U.S. Air Force and Trela was a spacecraft engineer at John Hopkins University.
It's speculated that Apple could be looking to expand into satellite design and operation. One use for such technology would be a broadband service that could reach users who don't currently have Internet connectivity. It's also speculated that the executives could be working on a system to help Apple better collect mapping data, perhaps via the use of drones.
Notably, rumors have suggested that Apple may be funding Boeing's V-band development work. Boeing has proposed a constellation of between 1,396 and 2,956 V-band satellites in 35-74 orbital planes at 1,200 km in altitude. The endeavor would create a global broadband system that would provide a wide range of advanced telecommunications services for commercial and governmental users.
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