NASA isn’t known for having a presence in the crypto community, but they just made a $330,000 USD investment in a program that uses Ethereum for an innovative new purpose. Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis, who is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Akron, just received a three-year, $330,000 Early Career Faculty grant from NASA.
The grant is going to be used for research into “Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm (RNCP),” which will use Ethereum-based smart-contract technology. Instead of using Ethereum to create FinTech applications, or adorable online pets, Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis thinks that smart-contracts could be used to program a space craft.
Dr. Kocsis explained what he is working on in the following manner,
“In this project, the Ethereum blockchain technology will be exploited to develop a decentralized, secure, and cognitive networking and computing infrastructure for deep space exploration,” and continued, “The blockchain consensus protocols will be further explored to improve the resilience of the infrastructure.”
NASA Backs Smart-Contract Innovation
Using smart-contracts to explore deep space is an interesting idea. The challenge that Ethereum smart-contracts could address for NASA is the major lag time that exists for communication between the earth, and distant spacecraft. Without a human pilot, making sure that a spacecraft does what it is supposed to is tricky.
Many of the advantages that blockchain brings to other areas seem to support this application. Dr. Kocsis’ choice to use blockchain technology appears to be a vote in favor of its stability. Blockchain architecture is built on the idea that changes to the underlying code that runs a system are nearly impossible, so it makes sense why it could be useful for a platform that simply can’t tolerate any sort of errors.
Ethereum is also an interesting platform because it comes pre-made with so many features. Smart-contracts probably weren’t designed with stand-alone space vehicles in mind, but their reliability and ease of programming demonstrates the latent potential in many of these new platforms. Like many tools, blockchain technology may be applicable to areas that we can’t currently imagine.
Dr. Kocsis Isn’t Alone in Blockchain Space Development
There are other companies that are working with space-based blockchain platforms. SpaceChain launched the first orbiting blockchain node earlier this year, and by all accounts, their novel design concept is evolving. In addition to operating the first orbital blockchain node, SpaceChain developed the open-source SpaceChain OS, which will allow independent development of dApps.
SpaceChain is taking a very different approach to space-based blockchain development, but their orbital platform could help many groups access satellite technology that wouldn’t have been able to do so otherwise. SpaceChain attracted support from Silicon Valley heavyweight Tim Draper, and also from the Chinese National Space Agency.
Jeff Garzik, the Chief Technological Officer at SpaceChain had this to say about their goals earlier this year, “We will be able to execute missions that fit with blockchain philosophy, and our philosophy revolves around openness, transparency and collective collaboration.”
Working at Multiple Levels
As Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis has demonstrated, blockchain’s abilities are only beginning to become apparent. What started out as the technical back-end for Bitcoin has become a global tech phenomena. Now it looks like blockchain could represent a leap forward for rock-solid programming, which also saves developers time.
Blockchain can add deep space exploration to a long list of uses. It is also being adapted to be used in international logistics, IoT smart-technology, and gaming. None of these applications were a part of the original design process that brought blockchain to the world, but now people are finding new ways to use a technology that is taking root in multiple industries.