Blockchains in Space! Revisited

Last week I titled a post, Blockchains in Space!, as a satirical comment on blockchain mania. Obviously, I forgot the new rule that satire is no longer possible.

SpaceChain’s blockchain node has been launched into space on Oct 25, 2018. In the map below, you can track its movements to see exactly where it is in orbit.

The SpaceChain FAQ also provides a good example of a kind of doublethink that is very common in the blockchain world:

What is the difference between having a blockchain on Earth as opposed to in space?
Blockchain technology is hosted on centralized servers on Earth and are vulnerable to hacking. One way to prevent this issue is to get these platforms on a decentralized network such as SpaceChain’s blockchain-based network of satellites. Blockchain technology in space will be safer from other vulnerabilities such as internet kill switches or governments that are against the technology. In addition, blockchain technology in space will prove as a great use case for supply chains especially since there are certain places on Earth that are outside of coverage zones such as oceans, deserts and forests. These satellites will be able to track, monitor and scan these dead zones.

How do you ensure legal compliance with regulatory bodies in various countries?
We have a legal team to ensure full compliance. We also have team members and partners in China, Israel, Singapore and the US who work with local governing bodies to ensure that we are fully compliant with local regulations.

Ironically, I’m bullish on blockchain (I advise several firms in the space) but it would be nice to see real products with real customers before we start putting blockchains in space.


Ah, now I see. Those monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey were blockchain servers in space. "To the moon, Alice, to the moon!"

Brazil is expected to double its blockchain capabilities until 2022.

You have my sympathy.

The point is, we are nearing blockchain parity.

“ advise several firms in ... space.”
Presume it is an unintended pun.

Under WIPO there's IP in space, so arguably this blockchain technology could violate some fundamental patents in this space (pun intended, Anon). Inventions in Space - WIPO Patent Expert Issues: Inventions in Space. ..While patent protection is subject to the applicable territorial legal framework, according to international space law, the state in which the space object is registered retains jurisdiction and control over that space object.

Bonus trivia: we need a remake of Spaceballs (1987)?!

Ironically, I’m bullish on blockchain (I advise several firms in the space) but it would be nice to see real products with real customers before we start putting blockchains in space.

Yes, there are no real products with real customers using pure blockchain.

And products that look that they might actually do something useful (e.g. Lightning Network) need to be trusted - and relegate the blockchain to mere handling of the currency transfer.... So the whole "distributed governance" hype goes out the window ...

The flaws of blockchain are well-known, but the one that is probably underdiscussed is that connecting a blockchain to the real world always requires a heavily-trusted imtermediary.

Clearly blockchain is a solution, or product, desperately in search of a problem, or customers WHO WILL PAY FOR A SOLUTION.

Blockchain, however, is pure free lunch. Ie, it's totally free and costs nothing.

That's why it's seen as so profitable and wealth creating!

No workers are paid, so unpaid workers will pay trillions in pure profits for blockchain to track their exponentially growing debt.

+1, the trust problem is huge. Many of the proposed blockchain applications are not deriving any benefit at all from blockchain, because they don't remove the need to trust a central party.

I don't think this problem has ever really been solved for any blockchain system. Bitcoin has to be considered a success at this point, but not because this issue has been solved: Bitcoin requires higher trust of less-reliable actors than traditional currency. It has been successful because

1) It has become a semi-tolerated way to bypass government currency regulations.

2) Hype around blockchain has made it popular, irrespective of its utility.

... so apparently there are NO significant drawbacks or negative aspects to SpaceChain versus ground based systems ??

SpaceChain is dramatically more expensive to establish and maintain.

The data-links are vulnerable to all sorts of electronic attacks & disruption. Redundancy is still limited.

What is the overall price tag ?

Also...isn't blockchain supposed to be a distributed system? If you have a trusted company maintaining an official, central version of the truth (in space or otherwise), then what, exactly, are you using blockchain for?

As I've said before, why are they using blockchain rather than a simple database?

The only way to be bullish on blockchains is to be actively ignorant about key concepts of computer security and distributed systems. You might as well be bullish on tobacco companies because you believe that they'll figure out the cancer problem any day now.

A single node on a single satellite will provide only intermittent service to any particular point on earth. Global coverage would require many more satelites following repeating ground tracks. Moreover, the system will require landing licenses from each government in which it proposes to land its service, which license can be denied for whatever reason, or be required to land its service through a ground station under the receiving government's control.

So you have to be an idiot to believe in this pie in the sky venture? An Iri-idiot?

Bonus trivia: Motorola was going to decommission Iridium, which went bankrupt in 1999, but at the last minute was saved by the DoD, and with some deft executive maneuvers, debt discharge, outlasted the parent and is now profitable. The "Iridium Flare" is a nighttime phenomena where you can see sunlight bouncing off an Iridium satellite as it orbits the earth (there are 95 of them circling the earth in an elaborate low-orbit pattern to given continuous coverage)

Apparently there was early talk of spacechain as a backup alternative to the AWS cloud and google data centers:
Even without actual customers at the moment, the existance of an alternative backup system may constrain arbitrary or anti-competitive behavior by the current cloud hegemons.

1. The alternative backup system would have to be big enough to provide an actual alternative to some portion of those cloud services. That's not remotely feasible, given launch costs.

2. Cloud providers are already constrained by the market. They want customers, so they need to provide services that people want. Cloud computing and storage is not a space where the big players can leverage their market share to stop competition, because they are essentially selling a commodity. There is nothing that particularly locks customers in to Amazon or Google, and it's quite easy to start up competing cloud companies.

3. Ignoring point 2, there is still the question: why space? Why not just put some servers in somebody's garage? It's naive to think that a satellite is safe from governments. Governments can jam communication with satellites. They can track down who is communicating with satellites and prosecute those people. And they can probably disable them, too.

4. Also for "why space?" How does a satellite prevent hacking? Almost no hacking is achieved through physical access to servers. A server on a satellite will need communications to be open in order to use it, and this will allow hacking. No different than on earth.

"Ironically, I’m bullish on blockchain (I advise several firms in the space)"

I bet you are.

Space first, questions later.

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