NASA Exploring Blockchain Technology That Could Help Power Mission to Saturn’s Icy Moon

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is looking at a blockchain solution that can help power the space agency’s mission to Saturn’s icy moon, Titan. 

According to a NASA briefing, tech companies Orbit Logic and the Fraunhofer USA Center for Experimental Software Engineering have put forward a blockchain-based protocol that enhances communications in inhospitable space environments dubbed as the Space Communication Reconstruction and Mapping with Blockchain Ledgering or SCRAMBL. By leveraging the distributed ledger technology, SCRAMBL will store and propagate a ledger containing relevant data across networking satellites.

“The ledger contains an inventory of established communication paths based on spacecraft-published connection state changes, but more importantly hosts events, states, objectives, and plans that constitute a Common Relevant Operating Picture (CROP) – key to enabling a space network’s coordination and overall awareness. When complemented with Orbit Logic’s Autonomous Planning System (APS) solution (already developed and proven on high-fidelity testbeds), SCRAMBL will allow the constellation as a whole to achieve greater overall system utility through agent-supported asset teaming strategies.” 

The underlying blockchain algorithm will be developed in such a way that it enables the spacecraft system to bypass interruptions in communications. Should one node encounter issues, the rest can swiftly and dynamically adapt and determine the most effective way to transmit a message. 

“The dynamic network adaptiveness of SCRAMBL will naturally route around spacecraft communication disruptions and disconnections. The space-specific algorithms to be developed under this research topic will be lightweight and tailored toward efficient execution on the resource-constrained computing elements used on satellites. The network path routing optimizations performed will scale well as the constellation is grown, dynamically adapting to the future addition of assets (late joiners).”

Such dynamic adaptability is particularly important as NASA expands its quadcopter-based mission to Saturn’s Titan, where inhospitable conditions pose challenges to data transmission.

“This blockchain communication solution has uses for aerial vehicles (quadcopter swarms) where common operational awareness is needed throughout and communication is minimal due to environmental factors.”