SpaceChain today reported it has completed the first Qtum – a hybrid Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchain platform – transaction in space.
The blockchain and space startup aims to build the world’s first open-source satellite network that runs on blockchain nodes that are housed in CubeSats.
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During the test, the node’s signal was detected and transaction data was uploaded to the node to complete the signature.
This signal was then downloaded via SpaceChain’s groundstation, before it was verified on the blockchain network. You can see details of the 340-byte transaction for yourself here.
Why blockchain in space?
SpaceChain says the key benefit of a blockchain satellite network is extra security. While blockchain is often lauded for its (almost) immutable ledger, the servers on Earth that host blockchain technology can be vulnerable to hacking.
And space nodes will also be safe from internet kill switches or governments that are against blockchain technology.
Presumably, the only dangers the nodes will face are solar flares and space debris – but considering CubeSats measure just 10x10x10 cms, the latter is unlikely.
SpaceChain co-founder and chief technology officer Jeff Garzik said that SpaceChain could also have cybersecurity benefits for the blockchain industry.
“This multi-signature cold wallet service – an application developed by SpaceChain engineers to test the space node – shows proof of technology of being a potential cybersecurity solution for the blockchain industry,” he said.
“SpaceChain deployed and tested the space-based multi-signature transaction which opens up brand new possibilities in space security models.”
The company adds that it could improve blockchain-based supply chains by providing additional satellite coverage to more remote areas of the world.
However, with just two nodes currently in space, SpaceChain is a long way from being able to provide this level of coverage.
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By combining the Bitcoin and Ethereum platforms, Qtum (pronounced quantum) leverages Bitcoin’s value-storing capabilities on Ethereum’s smart-contract platform.
SpaceChain’s node is embedded with its smart operating system, SpaceChain OS. It can perform functions such as running smart contracts and multi-signature.
The node was launched into space on 25 October 2018 after hitching a ride on a CZ-4B Y34 rocket from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre, Xinzhou, China.
It follows SpaceChain’s first blockchain node launch on 2 February 2018. While it could process existing blockchain data, it remained offline and so could not process new transactions.
The blockchain space race
Though blockchain is yet to colonise the Earth, it is already making ventures into space.
In April 2018, for example, NASA awarded a $330,000 grant for the development of an autonomous blockchain-based spacecraft.
NASA’s EU equivalent, the ESA, has also been exploring how blockchain could benefit some of its administrative processes on Earth.
And there are some companies that believe blockchain has the potential to democratise space exploration, with startup SpaceBit promoting the tokenisation of commercial space missions.
Many of these projects, including SpaceChain, are some way off full fruition, though.
“It often takes months and years to build the system and to launch hardware into space as there is a need to secure the launch opportunity, obtain permissions, get the frequency and ensure there is ground station support,” said SpaceChain co-founder and chief executive officer Zee Zheng.
“We are proud to have launched two nodes in our first year of operations, bringing us one step closer to creating a network of blockchain-based satellites in space.”