NASA Wants To Use The Ethereum Blockchain To Automate Spacecraft

NASA has contributed funds to and is currently co-running a new project that will use Ethereum blockchain technology to both automate spacecraft maneuvering while avoiding space debris.

Space debris is a real problem for both spacecraft and for us here on Earth. With meteors passing dangerously close that we didn’t even realize were coming, NASA has been looking for a solution to the problem that will protect us from any stray space objects. While protecting us here on Earth is a priority, the agency also has a vested interest in ensuring that their spacecraft remain free from damage. By using Ethereum blockchain technology, NASA may manage to develop a way that will allow their ships to maneuver automatically – thereby taking out any human error and allowing for lightning-fast responses when presented with space debris.

NASA Ethereum Blockchain
By National Aeronautics and Space Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The research into using Ethereum blockchain tech comes as part of a project to develop deep space probes, and NASA is investing a significant amount of resources to leverage any technology they can to make the project a success. The goal of this research is to both enhance efficiency and increase the safety of space communications and navigation.

The research project, referred to as Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm, is led by Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Akron.

“I hope to develop technology that can recognize environmental threats and avoid them, as well as complete some tasks automatically,” said Kocsis.

Dr. Kocsis’ plan is to develop a cognitive architecture using Ethereum blockchain tech in which spacecraft won’t be as reliant on scientists back on Earth – thereby increasing the craft’s independence and ability to respond to any external threats such as space debris. Instead of being reliant on input, Ethereum-based smart contracts will support the spacecraft, allowing them to think on their own and detect the debris.

“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. The blockchain consensus protocols will be further explored to improve the resilience of the infrastructure,” Dr. Kocsis stated.

One of the main ways in which the Ethereum blockchain technology would assist NASA in their goal to automate spacecraft is through implementing decentralized architecture. This sort of structure would theoretically be able to support automatic data gathering – freeing up scientists back on Earth and allowing them to analyze information rather than spending all of their time focusing on keeping their ship intact.

“I hope to develop technology that can recognize environmental threats and avoid them, as well as complete some tasks automatically,” she added.

At this point, there aren’t any further details on the exact type of Ethereum blockchain that will be employed for this massive undertaking, and we’ll have to rely on information from NASA in order to figure out how exactly this project will be implemented. Whether the Ethereum blockchain will be private or public remains to be seen, but we’re likely still quite a ways out from a future where spaceships are fully automated.

As mentioned above, NASA is pouring a significant amount of time and money into this project with hopes that it will pay off moving forward. While the technology is largely intended to be part of their deep space probe project, the ability to have intelligent ships that can avoid space debris on their own should free up valuable time and resources and allow NASA scientists to rely on the Ethereum blockchain to do the heavy lifting while they turn their efforts to better understanding data. By having an intelligent ship that can respond as needed, we may see faster discoveries overall as the best and brightest minds are put to use on more cerebral work than protecting NASA’s investments by maneuvering a ship.

As far as how exactly Ethereum Blockchain technology will be used to achieve this goal remains to be seen, and it’s a novel use that hasn’t really been attempted before. It just goes to show that tech behind cryptocurrencies is incredibly robust and may have more applications than we’d think. Hopefully moving forward scientists can continue to leverage this technology and bring Ethereum blockchain technology into the limelight as much more than the backbone of one of the world’s largest virtual coins.