How Blockchain Will Help Send People Into Space

Gemini IV pilot, astronaut Edward H. White II, is photographed on board the Gemini spacecraft during its four-day Earth orbit. He became the first American to step out of his spacecraft and release, drifting into the gravity of space. Created June 5, 1964. Source: NASA

Blockchain enters the aerospace industry. Decentralization aims to help both private and public space organizations achieve and pursue their goals.

From blockchain-based supply chains to the tokenization of space assets and resources, industry-wide figures confirm that blockchain will provide an infrastructure that will make the space industry more efficient and productive.

Blockchain in space: satellites and supply chains

According to Andrew James Murrell, Head of Future Telecom Program Exploration at the European Space Agency (ESA), it is the decentralization of blockchains that makes them ideal for the space industry.

Since the data stored on blockchains can be reliably shared by multiple actors in multiple countries, it is perfect for an industry that relies on international collaboration, as well as collaboration between public and private entities.

Satellite communications systems are a potential part of many future DLT [distributed ledger technology] systems, ”he says

“For some applications, there may also be benefits in implementing the blockchain nodes within the space segment, i.e. beyond individual national or political influence or to provide greater diversity and resilience.”

Other experts agree. PwC Space industry analyst Aravind Ravichandran also confirms that blockchain will have multiple applications for the industry, with logistics and supply chain management being another key area in addition to satellite communications.

“Blockchain has many applications in supply chain management where transparency / traceability is critical,” he tells “A space agency like NASA or ESA can monitor the supply chain end-to-end for critical programs such as the ‘NASA Commercial Crew’. “

Likewise, Ravichandran notes that blockchain can provide a decentralized, secure and transparent dashboard that allows institutions such as NASA to identify what is happening in the supply chain. And in case of delay or failure, it also lets them “evaluate where things went wrong simply because the information is in front of them.”

Andrew Murrell quotes as an example of a company already operating in this field SpaceChain (SPC). Based in Singapore and the UK, SpaceChain is “developing a satellite-based blockchain network that can be used to create an open-source operating system for developing [space-focused] blockchain applications. ”

Recently, the private company launched a blockchain integrated satellite payload to the International Space Station in December 2019.

The tokenization of space

Another important area is tokenization, which will allow a more efficient exchange or communication of different space sources.

“Blockchain technology can provide decentralized and secure techniques for processing and manipulating space assets such as digital space tokens,” Dr. Mohamed Torky, a member of the Scientific research group in Egypt, recently one paper on blockchain applications in the aerospace industry.

“Space resources such as satellites, orbit vectors, space debris, asteroids, spacecraft, astronauts, etc. can be digitally processed in the form of blockchain-based digital tokens.”

Aravind Ravichandran predicts that space tokenization will fall into three broad categories.

1. Satellite images

The first involves tokenizing satellite images, which are currently sold as a scene (an image) or per square kilometer. “This eventually becomes very inefficient and expensive, as the area of ​​interest for a majority of users is only a small fraction of the satellite images,” said Ravichandran.

Given these flaws in the current system, he envisions a tokenized geospatial business model that permits [space agencies and companies] to set up a blockchain-based infrastructure, where the satellite image can be tokenized (eg in pixels) ”and exchanged through an automated smart contract.

2. Space assets

Next is the tokenization of space assets. “This is huge and can disrupt the way property is owned and built,” Ravichandran predicts.

“Country C1 can contribute 30% of the mission cost and own 30% of this spacecraft, and country C2 can contribute the remaining 70%,” he explains. “This is already happening, of course, with multiple countries contributing to one mission, but blockchain can improve that mechanism of collaboration and partnership.”

3. Space resources

Third, there is also the tokenization of space resources, such as asteroids and the moon in the context of space mining.

“With the acquisition from Planetary sources through ConsenSys, a large blockchain company, I expected this to happen sooner rather than later, ”says Ravichandran. However, this could increase in the coming years, given NASA’s interest in the moon with the Artemis mission.”

Work in progress

While everything is still early for blockchain in the space industry, there are already a handful of examples of space companies and agencies embracing blockchain.

Andrew James Murrell reveals that the ESA Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS) program is already researching blockchain use cases related to satellite systems.

In addition, ESA’s ARTES Future Preparation Program is “looking for the DTL use cases best served by future satellite systems and trying to define the system architecture best suited to their implementation.”

Murrell also notes that NASA will be in 2018 gave a $ 330,000 grant to develop a blockchain-based spacecraft system, which was “won by Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis for her project” Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm (RNCP). “

As for private companies, Ravichandran says that “the first blockchain-based satellite was launched in 2018 by SpaceChain to build a satellite-based blockchain system.” Meanwhile, ConsenSys Space builds a blockchain based database to track satellites while based in Switzerland Waiting time “Are already diversifying into space-based cybersecurity applications.”

In other words, the future looks bright for blockchain in the space industry, which could become more efficient thanks to decentralization.

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