Blockchain goes to Space as NASA, ESA Explore Innovative Applications of the Technology

Faith Obafemi
Feb 21, 2018

Finally blockchain goes to space as NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) begin exploring potential use cases of blockchain in space.

This intention was made known in a NASA presentation titled "Bitcoin, Blockchains and Efficient Distributed Spacecraft Mission Control." According to the presentation, blockchain has several use cases that could be applied in distributed spacecraft missions that involves multiple elements. Also, adding AI to the mix will result in a more responsive and efficient space-based sensor network.

As efforts in this direction, NASA awarded a $333,000 grant to Assistant Professor Jin Wei of University of Akron (UA) in September last year. The award was to fund research into making space hardware smarter and especially, more autonomous. The research  program, titled “RNCP: A Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm for NASA Space Exploration,” aims at improving efficiency, intelligence and automation of NASA's space probes. Theses probes are an essential component of deep space missions.

Commenting on Research Program, Thomas Kacpura, Advanced Communications Program Manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, had this to say: “The objective here is the application of blockchain and distributed intelligence to our space and ground network communication assets. If successful, the overall objective will be to incorporate Dr. Wei’s research in our overall portfolio to ultimately optimize our communication networks."

In Europe, ESA has been carrying low-profile research for blockchain-powered solutions to it's space activities and Administrative challenges. That have published a position paper titled “Distributed Ledger Technology: Leveraging Blockchain for ESA's Success,” with Trainee Torben David and Senior Coordinator Gianluigi Baldesi as authors. The paper begins with a condensed summary of blockchain technology and its general applications. The paper then goes on to list the several potential use cases of blockchain applicable to the Agency's mission. However, the paper focused more on payments, data records, tracing, procurement and smart contracts solutions. Specific space themed solutions were not detailed. Perhaps because, they are at early stage of research. This is what differentiates the ESA's position paper from NASA's RNCP.

One of ESA's position paper authors have confirmed that the Agency would be awarding blockchain exploratory research contracts like a Satcom Maker Space initiative that includes Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for satellite telecommunications.

Other contracts to be awarded include: “Testbed for Blockchain supporting satellite M2M/IoT,” “Blockchain for Space Activities” study and a “fintech” initiative that explores innovative fintech-related applications and services with focus on its integration with space and non-space technology.

Space 4.0 desires to incorporate the decentralization principles of blockchain. So we can expect to see innovative initiatives like Space Decentral project and Moon Village across the universe soon.

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