How do blockchains help space exploration?

Blockchains are decentralized systems of ledgers that record transactions. They contain chains of “blocks”, batches of validated transactions, which cannot be altered without also altering previous blocks. One of blockchains’ advantages is they easily allow verification of transactions. Some firms are developing blockchains to support space exploration. One such firm, called Nexus, is working with Vector Space Systems to that end. We spoke with Colin Cantrell, Nexus’s software architect, to learn more about how blockchains can support human space activity.

How do blockchains have the potential to affect human activity in space?

If we look at the currently implemented financial systems, they exist as independent ledgers between banks and require quite old technology to run. I see the efficiency of blockchains compared to conventional financial systems in the banking sector as much more conducive to making space economies come to life. In the future, we may see asteroid mining out beyond Mars, as well as colonies on the moon and Mars. Interplanetary exchange will be important for these enterprises to develop and thrive, and I believe blockchains are just starting to make this possible. Blockchains also serve to strengthen satellites which are defined by their software, such as Vector’s Galactic Sky constellation of satellites; the software in that constellation helps satellites share resources. Blockchains can support this with cryptocurrency transactions.

What are you doing in this regard?

Our main focus at Nexus in space is two-fold: we find utilities for blockchain in space-based virtual machines; and we provide incentive structures for communication hardware expansion. These two activities could support orbital communication hardware in the future that allows for communication between different hardware orbiting around other planets.

How did you end up being interested in the intersection of blockchains and space?

Space and computers were always two great passions of mine, and they were very prevalent in my upbringing due to my father’s occupation. The intersection naturally formed when I understood that a blockchain and satellite were two sides to the same coin, being that they are both set to provide a foundation to many future technologies.