A $330,000 NASA autonomous spacecraft will be able to make decisions without human intervention by using blockchain technology. This means that the spacecraft could be able to dodge space debris at a distant planet or moon, faster than a human on earth could help out the far-away probe.
The research project is in its early stages, it would be especially useful in deep-space environments, where spacecraft communicating back to Earth must currently wait for hours for a response. Instead, this technology would work to enable the spacecraft to perform tasks using blockchain technology.
The Principal investigator Wei Kocsis, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at The University of Akron in Ohio, said in the statement
“I hope to develop technology that can recognize environmental threats and avoid them, as well as complete a number of tasks automatically, I am honored that NASA recognized my work, and I am excited to continue challenging technology’s ability to think and do on its own, 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.”
In the world of virtual currency, blockchain technology is used to record transactions securely, without the need of a central management database such as a bank or the government. There are many variants of virtual currencies, but the most popular is known as Bitcoin.
The researchers are planning to use technology incorporated into a different digital currency, called Ethereum which not only records transactions but also executes decentralized code, such as automatically running a transaction when conditions are met. NASA is testing the project for now by using the Ethereum blockchain technology for these self-executing contracts, also called “smart contracts,” to enhance digital decision-making in spacecraft.
NASA or the University of Akron did not say how many years it would be before this technology would fly. This project is the first time that NASA has explored blockchain technology for space communications and navigation.