Blockchain is the technology behind the Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, and is often described as Internet 2.0 or the ‘next big thing’. While still in the early years of development, its applications in numerous industries, including finance, insurance, energy, government, health, telecoms and Internet of Things (IoT), is showing great potential.
Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that is being used for all the cryptocurrency transactions. It offers benefits in terms of faster execution of transactions, increased data storage, security, integrity, transparency and resilience. Beside currency transactions, multiple other applications are currently being tested, including smart contracts, secure identification methods, property registries, tax collection, and even electronic voting.
One of the applications that is being increasingly discussed is the space industry. Multiple startups, such as SpaceX and ELSE, have entered the space sector in recent years, driving innovation and development of reusable boosters and nanosatellites. This has reduced the size and therefore the price of the satellites, democratizing the space industry and enabling the creation of a shared economy in space.
Adding blockchain to the equation would ensure security, control, and transparency of the data received through satellites. The distributed ledger is capable of providing a low-cost, decentralized trust mechanism through its encryption and validation system.
According to the World Economic Forum, a “‘digital twin’ of planet Earth – the sum total of all real-time data about everything from endangered biospheres to animal migration and air pollution – could be analyzed by artificial intelligence algorithms to identify threats to the integrity of the earth and trigger countermeasures.
Through blockchain’s security, transparency and reduced costs provided, this shared economy will be made available not only to urban elites, but to everyone equally, including to those living in developing areas. However, to achieve this goal, businesses and governments need to make concerted efforts to ensure data availability for everyone. Such a feat could be achieved through measures like developing comprehensive regulation, stimulating investment, and removing barriers of entry to the space industry.
Some startups, such as Singapore-based Spacechain, are already working on providing truly decentralized data distribution networks. Developing the hardware was the easy part, CEO Zheng Zuo said in an interview with Tech In Asia, and Spacechain is currently developing the software part. An open-source satellite operating system will enable other actors to develop and run their applications (blockchain optional), such as tracking shipping containers or taking photos of Earth.
The coming years will define the direction and shape of the emerging sharing economy in the space sector, which has a massive potential to solve real-world problems. If regulators and the main industry players support emerging innovators with the right incentives, the industry will skyrocket in no time.