NASA is funding a research project that will leverage Ethereum blockchain in deep space. The project intends to add automated maneuvering capability to the spacecrafts so that they can avoid space debris.
Spacecrafts operating in deep space, i.e. several millions of miles from earth, depend on scientists on earth who monitor floating debris, and send instructions from far so the spacecraft can take evasive action. There is a time lag in transmitting messages, and there is also a real possibility of message truncation or disruption. The consequences can be very damaging. If the spacecraft could monitor its environment, make maneuvering decisions based on risk exposure, and take the evasive action by itself, that’s far more desirable.
NASA will work with Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis, assistance professor of electrical and computer engineering in The University of Akron (UA), on a project that intends to provide this ‘thinking’ capability to the spacecraft. The project will explore Ethereum blockchain, especially the smart contracts, to achieve the objective.
The project is called “A Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm” for NASA Space Exploration, or RCNP in short. The research objectives are to develop a secure and decentralized computing infrastructure, simulate and test the resilient computing paradigm, improve environmental awareness of space networking via data-driven method, and contribute to next generation computing infrastructure. The project will use blockchain, deep learning, software-defined networking (SDN), fuzzy logic, game theory, and contract theory.
The grant amounts to US $ 330,000, and is spread over three years. Professor Kocsis indicates that the project will use Ethereum blockchain to develop a decentralized, secure, and cognitive networking and computing infrastructure for deep space exploration. The consensus mechanism of blockchain will be used, to improve the resilience of the system. The technology should be able to recognize environmental threats and avoid those. It should also be able to do a number of other data collection tasks automatically, thus freeing up scientists on earth to focus on more valuable work.
The grant was finalized in late 2017, and further details on the project are awaited, including whether a public or private blockchain will be used. NASA believes that the project could lead to decentralized processing among NASA‘s space network nodes in a secured manner.