The Unlikely, But Enticing Relationship Between Blockchain and Space Exploration

By October 23, 2020No Comments

Did you know that SpaceX has already launched hardware meant to enable blockchain transactions via low-earth orbit satellites? Do you know NASA is interested in Ethereum? The concept that cryptocurrencies and space exploration can somehow be linked might sound bizarre. After all, there don’t seem to be any apparent parallels to be drawn between them. But it’s happening. 

Even though the OG cryptocurrency Bitcoin was launched in 2009, crypto still has a long way to go for universal adoption. To many of us, the tech is still too new to imagine its applications in our daily lives. So envisioning it being used in space exploration might seem outlandish indeed.

But cryptocurrencies and space have more in common than you might presume. Cryptocurrencies have the blockchain working behind them – which is a secure and brilliant way of storing data for three basic reasons:

  1. Blockchain is decentralized – it stores information across a P2P (peer-to-peer) network, ruling out the risks a centralized database poses.
  1. Blockchain provides transparency since all blocks on the chain are available for everyone to see. The odds of any information being altered are significantly lower.
  2. Blockchain provides security: Blocks on a blockchain are extremely difficult to tamper with, bordering on the practically impossible.

But Why on Earth Does Appropriating the Crypto Mechanism in Space Exploration Seem Like a Good Idea?

Let’s walk through some probable applications of cryptocurrency in the space industry, shall we?

  • Satellite and Spaceship Communications: Communication in space is unpredictable and challenging; the broad distance between space stations results in numerous disruptions and can even cause the loss of valuable data. Blockchain tech is certainly a great solution for connectivity issues. Nodes on a blockchain get to add blocks and see all data stored on the chain. When you register a satellite or a spacecraft as a node on a blockchain, you can access new data the systems have gathered as soon as they are created, enabling an effective and constant stream of communication. NASA is already considering such models – more on this later in the post.
  • Funding Space Operations and Startups: As the space sector becomes increasingly commercialized, the use of ICOs could prove groundbreaking in terms of democratizing the space industry. An ICO, or Initial Coin Offering, is a fundraising system behind cryptocurrencies that allows teams to raise money for a project (in the case of the crypto industry, usually a coin or an online service) by giving virtual utility tokens to every investor. ICOs provide an opportunity for both parties to benefit, so when it comes to funding individual companies interested in manufacturing equipment necessary for space exploration or private agencies planning missions in space, the ICO mechanism can prove to be the sort of critical mass the space industry needs.
  • Tokenization of Space Assets and Spatial Info: Asset tokenization is representing a tangible asset as a virtual token that can be stored and tracked on a blockchain system. When you have the scope to thus tokenize assets situated in space (like Mars or the moon) and spatial data gathered by various satellites, interested parties from all over the world can participate in space exploration, which makes it an overall inclusive project instead of an elitist one. Plus, these digital counterparts also allow the physical elements themselves to be monitored (just like a physical asset’s location can be tracked on a  blockchain), which is an added bonus. 

Great! But How Do Cryptocurrencies Stand to Benefit from Space Exploration?

Of course, being utilized in space exploration opens up new horizons for cryptocurrencies too. In a world where cryptos still have plenty of room to grow and see adoption, supporting space exploration might be the ultimate factor that makes people see them as the valuable currencies they are. 

So how is aiding space expeditions advantageous for cryptocurrencies?

  • Satellite Internet:  Cryptocurrencies, being virtual, naturally require the internet to operate. However, a surprisingly huge part of the world still does not have access to high-speed internet, be it due to location or affordability issues. If the crypto mechanism helps fund space exploration and manage the expenses of satellite launches, opening up satellite internet to be used by a larger crowd might just be possible, which will ultimately benefit cryptocurrencies since a wider user base would be able to join in the market. Elon Musk is already doing this with Starlink.
  • Assured Decentralization: Using satellite internet to make all transaction information available to all nodes 24/7 helps make cryptocurrencies more diversely distributed, keeps any individual agency from controlling your money, provides more transparency, and lowers chances of the decentralization being questioned.
  • Increased Security: To provide maximum safety to all transactional and personal info, a cryptocurrency network has to rely on the internet to let all nodes connect with each other (also known as the consensus). But if for some reason the internet connectivity is impacted, even temporarily, or if an attack occurs and the nodes can’t reach out to each other, chaos and an unfathomably expensive loss will ensue. The use of satellite internet could prevent this, and if for some reason the internet does get taken down in certain areas, it could inform all other nodes and take corrective action.

The Crypto Tech’s Use in Space Till Date, and What Possibilities Does the Future Have in Store?

The blockchain has already had several use cases planned in the space industry! Take SpaceX, founded back in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal to reduce space transportation costs significantly and accelerate the process of getting Mars ready for colonization. SpaceX’s well known Starlink project aims to provide satellite internet across the globe at a lower cost. 

NASA has announced its intention to use the Ethereum-based blockchain tech in deep space exploration projects. The objective is to improve the networking and infrastructure of spacecraft and make them more autonomous so that they can make decisions like dodging space debris quickly and without human intervention. There are also talks of adopting the system for communication among the NASA space network nodes for decentralization and security.

SpaceChain is working on an open-source satellite network, which also happens to be the first of its kind, to create a next-generation infrastructure for the blockchain industry.

Even though these projects are scheduled to launch in the near or to slightly distant future, it’s undeniable that the potential and the scopes for cryptocurrency in space exploration is endless, not even counting the sheer number of possibilities wilder than anything any of us could conjure up in our imaginations right now. Is this what the crypto community had in mind when they said they wanted Bitcoin sent to the moon?

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