The Villanova College of Engineering sends a private Ethereum blockchain into space to test whether distributed library technology (DLT) can help satellites exchange data.
Working with nonprofit space professors, Villanova Engineering School has secured a flight for its blockchain on an Aerospace Firefly rifle scheduled to launch on November 20 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket will carry a “Serenity” satellite that will include Villanova’s private blockchain mounted on a Raspberry Pi, a single board computer the size of a credit card.
Hasshi Sudler, an assistant professor at Villanova leading this project, said the large number of communications and other types of satellites already in space have focused on how blockchain technology could help this sector. Currently, there are nearly 2,800 man-made satellites orbiting the Earth, 1,425 of which belong to the United States, according to data collected by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
This concentration of satellites in space means there could be constraints on launching new satellites in the future, Sudler said. But it also creates an opportunity to reduce the number of new satellites needed by creating a way for existing satellites to communicate with each other.
“We want to be able to allow satellites to take advantage of the existing data that current satellites have, but that raises the question of how this transfer is done and how to ensure that the transaction is done, as well as to ensure that it is paid. And that’s all. that blockchain plays a unique role, ”he said.
According to Sudler, the movement of data from one satellite to another can be a long process involving many earth stations that remain in contact with the satellite. Using a blockchain network to transfer this data could reduce these requirements and lower the operating cost of maintaining earth stations if the satellites could “talk” to each other in space.
The blockchain that will be sent into space adopts a professional consensus mechanism of the Authority in order to minimize energy needs, which can be quite large compared to these mechanisms commonly used in public blockchains.
In an emailed statement, Villanova said the satellite will remain in low earth orbit (elevation of 1,200 miles or less) for 30 days. The first 15 days will be used for blockchain-controlled experiments conducted by researchers, followed by 15 days of testing to measure transaction performance under high traffic conditions.
The use of blockchain can also correct another problem with satellites: their movements. “If you have a number of satellites talking to each other and moving away from each other fairly quickly, it’s difficult for the entire network to build consensus very quickly,” Sudler said.
According to the university statement, the flight scheduled for November 20 is the first in a series of tests to test how satellites in low Earth orbit can transact with a private blockchain.