Last week, at the Future of Space & Astronomy Summit in Moscow, blockchain was a central topic of discussion. According the conference organiser, Alexander Shulgin, "Blockchain can become a trigger and a serious assistant in the development of almost any industry, most especially space. "This particular technology, based on decentralisation, can significantly shake up the hegemonic order that has become the status quo of the space industry. The number of countries with direct access to space is abysmally small, and most projects are actualised by the American NASA, the EU’s ESA, and Russia’s Roscosmos.
For Asgardia, this has been a problem from the start. The space nation slogan is “One Humanity, One Unity” – meaning the accessibility of space for all, and full democratisation of that access. Blockchain may help.
Centralised management means high costs, which only governments can afford. The exception to the rule is SpaceX, funded by Elon Musk, but startups are beginning to pop up in the industry.
With decentralisation, startups can utilise crypto-economic models that are similar to crowdfunding. By holding an ICO, they can attract investors and capital for asset-backed tokens, and those tokens can in turn be connected to products with economic value – space research or a space flight. With the blockchain technology, more people will be able to support non-governmental initiatives, gaining access to space through those opportunities.
The market is already seeing some crypto-based startups. SpaceChain is a startup that plans to build the world’s first open-source satellite network. It has already launched its first demonstration into orbit last February. Similarly, SpaceDecentral aims to create a social network for engineers, scientists, space professionals and enthusiasts in order to join efforts for participating in space exploration.
Another example is Blockstream, which developed a satellite network in order to make bitcoin transactions available to those who reside in countries with unstable political or economic situations. In this way, blockchain and space are already intertwined. Governments are working to catch up with the private sector to integrate blockchain into their own technology. For example, NASA announced a grant to a developer of an autonomous spacecraft that can make decisions without human intervention, enabled by smart contracts.
“Given the complexity of the systems that many space missions use, one can imagine the advantage of blockchain technology in securing communication between various components of such systems,” said Seyed Sajjadi, a NASA engineer. Regardless of the threat it may pose to government programs, it seems that blockchain technology is here to stay, and will only strengthen the space industry while making it more accessible for all.