Blockchains In Space!

Yet another idea from cryptocurrencly land, Dunvegan Space Systems is proposing to launch a fleet of low orbit satellites, BitSat, which is basically a small compute node, “space based cloud computing”.

The BitSats are specifically designed to process the Bitcoin blockchain, i.e., to be Bitcoin nodes. The advantages are imagined to be, “with  improved  physical  security,  storage  and  on-demand  communication in support of operations anywhere on earth.”

OK, I’ll but the improved physical security, at least after they are in orbit. I have to wonder about the other capabilities, compared to ground-based equipment. (Orbital systems tend to be hundreds of times slower and smaller than ground systems.)

“Anywhere on earth” obviously doesn’t apply to underground, underwater, or other occluded locations, and may or may not extend to polar regions.

Anyway, that’s maybe not the point. The point is to be a totally self reliant network. As Jeff Garzik told Stan Higgens of CoinDesk:

“When the satellite is capable of fully processing the blockchain, it does not need to trust a ground station to send it authentic data. The satellite itself is capable of making that evaluation, that decision on its own.”

 I’m not sure I completely understand this statement, because I don’t understand exactly what nodes the satellite will talk to. If the inputs are from a small number of nodes on the ground, then the data on the satellite is no more trustworthy than those stations. And if the data is read out via a small number of stations, then you have to protect those stations from tampering or cutoff.  Who controls the ground stations, anyway?

As far as I can tell, BitSat is mainly for “backup”, to assure access to the Bitcoin blockchain even in case ground based networks are disrupted or suborned.

At $1M a pop for just the satellite (ground stations are not cheap, either), this seems like a pretty expensive approach. You can get a heck of a lot of “backup” for $1M on the ground. Clearly, this is aimed for big players.

Generally speaking, launching your own space program is one of the best ways I know to go broke. <<link to iridium>> Even major nation states such as the old Soviet Union and the United States have had difficulty sustaining space programs. I have to be pessimistic about this project, simply on financial grounds.


Cryptocurrency Thursday


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