How Blockchain Helps Send People into Space

How Blockchain Helps Send People into Space

By stvleong | Steven Leong | 8 Jun 2020

The space industry is joining Blockchain. Its decentralization is mainly intended to enable private and public space organizations to accomplish and achieve their objectives.


From blockchain-based supply chains to the tokenisation of space assets and services, industry leaders say that blockchain will provide an infrastructure that will increase efficiency and competitiveness in the space industry.

Satellites and supply chains in space
It is decentralization of blockchains that makes them suitable for the space industry, according to Andrew James Murrell, Head of Future Telecom System Explorations at the European Space Agency ( ESA).

Given that the data stored in blockchains can be exchanged with multiple players across multiple countries without confidence, this is perfect for an industry that relies on international collaboration as well as collaboration between public and private entities.

Additional experts agree. Aravind Ravichandran, space industry analyst at PwC, also notes that blockchain would have many applications, as well as satellite communications, with logistics and supply chain management being another significant area.

"Blockchain has numerous supply chain management applications where transparency / traceability is very critical," he says at "The supply chain can be finished by a space agency such as NASA or ESA for critical programs such as 'NASA Commercial Crew'."

Similarly, Ravichandran states that blockchain that provide a decentralized, safe, and transparent dashboard to identify what is happening in the supply chain by institutions like NASA. And it also allows them to "evaluate where they went wrong effectively if the delay or failure occurred, simply because the information is in front of them."

Andrew Murrell cites SpaceChain (SPC) as an example of a company that is already working in this field. Based in Singapore and the United Kingdom, SpaceChain "develops a blockchain satellite network that may be used to create an open source operating system to develop [space-focused] blockchain applications."

In December 2019, the private corporation recently launched the International Space Station with a blockchain-integrated satellite payload.

The space tokenization
Another key area will be tokenization, so that different space resources can be shared or communicationed more efficiently.

"Software from Blockchain will include decentralized and safe processing and manipulation techniques for space assets as digital space tokens," explains Dr. Mohamed Torky, member of the Scientific Research Group in Egypt, which has recently published a paper on space industry blockchain applications.

"The digital processing of space resources such as satellites, orbit vectors, space debris, asteroids, spaceships, astronauts, etc, can be performed in the form of blockchain tokens.

Aravind Ravichandran expects to fall into three broad categories of space tokenization.

1. Imaging of satellite
In the first place, satellite imagery is tokenized, which is now sold as a scene (image) or per square kilometer. "This ends up being very inefficient and costly, since the field of interest is only a small part of the satellite imaging for the majority of users," says Ravichandran.

In the light of these flaws in the current framework, he envisaged "a tokenized geospatial business model that would allow [space agencies and companies] able to create blockchain infrastructure, which could tokenize a satellite image (for example in pixels)" and exchange it through an automated smart contract.

2. Space Activities
This is the space resource tokenization. "It is enormous and could interfere in the way space assets are owned and constructed," predicts Ravichandran.

"Country C1 can contribute 30% to the cost of the mission and own 30% of it, and Country C2 can make the remaining 70%," he says. "With multiple countries contributing to one mission, this is obviously already happening, but Blockchain can improve that cooperation and partnership mechanism."

3. Spatial resources
Thirdly, space resources such as the asteroids and the Moon are often tokenized in the form of space mining.

"I expect this to happen sooner than later with the acquisition of Planetary Resources by ConsenSys, a major blockchain firm," Ravichandran said. "In the next few years, however, this could take up, given NASA 's interest in the Artemis Moon Mission."

Work is underway
While everything is still early for blockchain in the space industry, a number of examples of space companies and agencies that embrace blockchain already exist.

The ESA 's Business Applications and Space Solutions Program (BASS) is now investigating blockchain satellite systems usage cases. Andrew James Murrell reveals.

Murrell further notes that NASA has awarded USD 330 000 in 2018 for the development of a blockchain-based spacecraft system that "was won by Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis in its resilient networking and computing project."

As for private Ravichandran, "SpaceChain deployed the first blockchain-based satellite in 2018 to establish a blockchain satellite network." Meanwhile ConsenSys Space is building a blockchain-based database of satellite tracking, which is "already diversified to space-based cyber security applications."

In other words, for the space industry, the future looks brighter, which can become more productive through decentralization.


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Steven Leong
Steven Leong

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