Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology have been disrupting multiple industries on the globe, such as finance, gaming, supply chain management, and digital identity. But what if we told you that crypto’s influence is not limited to a single planet?
That’s right. The space industry has its own renaissance with private companies and billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson racing to explore the orbit and colonize planets like Mars.
At the same time, blockchain technology is becoming increasingly popular among space firms to enable trustless and efficient data transfers, financial transactions, and other solutions between ground and extraterrestrial stations.
In fact, while NASA is experimenting with distributed ledger technology (DLT) for autonomous satellite communication, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Strategy Department is actively investigating the role of blockchain technology in adapting the agency for Space 4.0, a new era of space discovery that could bring the most promising results to humanity.
In the meantime, multiple cryptocurrency businesses have launched or are currently preparing to introduce their own space projects.
In this article, we will explore some of the most exciting projects that aim to establish an infrastructure around digital assets in space.
Let’s see them!
SpaceChain is among the most active and established cryptocurrency projects in the space industry.
Founded by serial entrepreneur Zee Zheng and Bitcoin core developer and Linux kernel engineer Jeff Garzik in 2017, SpaceChain seeks to build an open, neutral, and decentralized infrastructure for the New Space Economy.
SpaceChain seeks to achieve the goal mentioned above and democratize access to space by integrating blockchain technology and the core principles of decentralization to remove the barriers that have prevented the global public from entering the industry.
One of the crypto project’s key highlights is the SpaceChain OS. This real-time operating system supports the function of full blockchain nodes and integrates technology from Qtum‘s public DLT network to serve as an open-source platform that will facilitate the acceleration of space development, exploration, and settlement.
Simply put, SpaceChain OS serves as the backbone for the project’s missions, achieves compatibility between hardware and apps, and as the company phrases, “lets both participants in the space arena and SpaceChain speak to each other in order to advance to the next stage.”
Since its launch in 2017, SpaceChain has made quite some progress in establishing a decentralized ecosystem in space. Some of the key highlights include:
- Launched the first Qtum-based blockchain node into space in February 2018 and started the integration of Ethereum into the SpaceChain OS in May 2018;
- Launched a second-generation Qtum node into space in late 2018;
- SpaceChain UK received a blockchain satellite technology grant from the European Space Agency in September 2019;
- In December 2019, the crypto project launched its third payload to space;
- SpaceChain executed the first multisignature Bitcoin transaction in space on the International Space Station in June 2020;
- The project received a grant under the EUREKA Globalstars-Singapore Call to develop a decentralized satellite infrastructure (DSI) with other projects in December 2020;
- In addition to releasing a programmable hardware board for the public for developing blockchain applications that can be deployed in space in April 2021, SpaceChain launched the first commercial Ethereum blockchain-integrated satellite payload into space in June.
Blockstream, the blockchain technology firm behind the BTC sidechain Liquid Network and a significant contributor to Bitcoin Core and the Lightning Network scalability solution, is among the first crypto projects to have “conquered” space.
The project’s space mission is centered around Blockstream Satellite, a network consisting of six geosynchronous satellites orbiting the Earth to continuously broadcast the Bitcoin blockchain around the world for free and also without the requirement of an internet connection.
Launched in August 2017, the initiative’s main goal is to improve the resilience of the Bitcoin network by facilitating its operation even in the case of a global internet outage. At the same time, those in remote regions and areas with limited access to the internet (or where ISPs offer services at a super expensive price) can utilize the BTC blockchain at no cost.
As part of the initiative, ground stations, called teleports, participate in the BTC network and are responsible for transmitting blocks to the crypto project’s satellites. After receiving the signal from the teleports, Blockstream’s six geosynchronous satellites broadcast it to the majority of the globe.
Those within the coverage area can access the Bitcoin blockchain and operate a full node via a small satellite antenna and a cheap USB receiver, which allows them to continuously stay in sync with the BTC network.
Interestingly, Blockstream’s teleports also receive blocks from other ground stations to avoid becoming partitioned and ensure the resilience of the satellite network (and Bitcoin).
3. Copernic Space
Copernic Space is one of the most exciting crypto space projects. While the core components of its ecosystem are still under development, Copernic Space is building a blockchain-powered platform where space industry players can tokenize their assets and ventures.
For example, a company can leverage DLT and cryptocurrency to raise funds via a crowdsale for its upcoming space venture. While this allows projects to acquire funding without relying on government grants and contracts, it offers the ability for anyone to invest and potentially profit from space ventures.
At the same time, tokenizing space assets empowers industry players to commercialize what they own and access new monetization methods. On the other hand, buyers can acquire or request the access they need for their projects while offering an opportunity for individual investors to achieve real ownership over a piece of space.
In August 2021, Copernic Space announced the first-ever public sale of tokenized payload space in cooperation with the space tech company Lunar Outpost. The initiative offers the ability for the public to purchase, utilize, divide, and resell the payload space on Lunar Outpost’s M1 MAPP rover headed to the moon in the last quarter of 2022.
Interestingly, Copernic Space tokenizes the payload space in Lunar Outpost’s rover by minting non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to achieve real ownership of the asset, with the option for investors to hold only a fraction of the item.
In the same month, Copernic Space joined the Cosmic Hub, a collaboration between the Polish Space Agency and CIC Warsaw, to facilitate the growth of Poland-based space firms by the commercialization of their assets and offerings as well as the attainment of financing via innovative technology.
Who Else Is Working on Space Crypto Infrastructure?
In addition to the above three projects, many are working on creating space tech by incorporating blockchain and digital assets. Examples of such include:
- SAT-1: The Bulgaria-based SAT-1 Initiative is actively exploring blockchain technology and decentralized applications (dApps) to create independent satellite communication networks. As part of its Homeport project, SAT-1 seeks to leverage DLT to decentralize its satellite receiver network and reduce data delivery requirements to increase downlink opportunities.
- Nexus: The Nexus Protocol is a universal blockchain network that seeks to create a completely new architecture for the internet. To achieve that, the project combines micro-satellites, a blockchain OS, phased array antennas on the ground, along with other key elements of its developing ecosystem.
- CryptoSat: Founded in 2017 by Stanford graduates, CryptoSat uses affordable CubeSat miniaturized satellite technology to launch an entire constellation of isolated and secure nanosatellites orbiting the Earth and provide a blockchain infrastructure that can be leveraged for multiple services, such as cryptocurrency mining and document timestamping.
- Consensys Space: Consensys Space is the space arm of the Ethereum- and enterprise-focused blockchain technology company Consensys. In 2018, the firm acquired the asteroid mining startup Planetary Resources, which allowed it to launch TruSat in 2019, an open-source, citizen-powered space sustainability system to record satellite orbits. However, since early 2020, Consensys Space has been rather silent about its progress in this field.
- Dogecoin: We have included this one for fun. As you may already know, Dogecoin (DOGE), the world’s first memecoin project, has been heavily praised and supported by Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk. Interestingly, there is some real collaboration between Dogecoin and SpaceX, in which the latter company plans to launch the DOGE-1 payload as the first crypto-funded mission to the moon (yes, literally to the moon) via a Falcon 9 rocket in Q1 2022.
Blockchain Tech to Become an Integral Part of Space Infrastructure
Due to its transparency, lack of intermediaries and trust, traceability, and security, blockchain technology is actively piloted for space ventures alongside industries like finance, payments, sports, and digital identity that serve global citizens.
From a decentralized network that democratizes access to the New Space Economy to Bitcoin full nodes orbiting the Earth and NFT-powered space asset tokenization, cryptocurrencies are gradually expanding their presence beyond the globe.
While many of these initiatives are still heavily under development – and it will take several years until humanity can colonize a planet like Mars –, they have already gathered quite some support, struck vital partnerships, and achieved important milestones.
For that reason, it will be exciting to see what they can come up with in the following years and whether crypto can conquer space.