Web3 has the potential to revolutionise the way we explore space. The use of this technology in space exploration is becoming more prevalent with the increasing number of private companies venturing into Web3 to provide solutions to a number of challenges which have plagued the space industry. One of the most significant benefits of this is the increased security and transparency it provides to launch and mission providers outside of NASA and the ESA. This technology ensures that data is tamper-proof, which is crucial in space exploration, where data integrity is paramount.
One recent example is the launch of the first crypto satellite, Crypto1, by Cryptosat for SpaceX’s Transporter 5 mission, this marks a significant use case for blockchain in space. The tamper-proof satellite can provide cryptographic services for customers on Earth, and its platform would act as the first off-world ‘root-of-trust,’ which could be trusted within a cryptographic-based system. This technology can be used to set up zero-knowledge proof protocols, which are increasingly being used in DAOs for voting and decision-making without revealing the votes cast by individuals. Additionally, the deployment of an entire blockchain in space could protect it from hackers who have the incentive and ability to hack earth-based systems.
The potential to streamline the supply chain is another benefit of using this technology in space. Notable space supply missions include the International Space Station resupply missions carried out by SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft and Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft. These spacecraft transport supplies, equipment, and scientific experiments to the space station. Blockchain could help track the movement of resources and ensure that they reach their intended destination and that the data collected is shared between all parties.
In addition, projects, such as SpaceChain and Blockstream, are already exploring use cases for space. Axiom Space, a commercial spaceflight company, has launched its own digital asset marketplace, which is built on Ethereum. The Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) featured a four-person multinational crew conducting extensive research, investigating novel technologies, and engaging with global audiences as champions of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. The Axiom astronauts created digital artworks that will be sold to space exploration enthusiasts, fostering a sense of community and educational outreach.
One of the most promising use cases in space is its potential as a governance framework for space activities. Several features such as its distributed and immutable nature, make it a viable candidate for adoption in space governance. This can enable decentralised actors to govern transactions outside traditional institutions and jurisdiction, which could respond to future space-governance challenges.
Blockchain and Space Governance
Space governance is a complex issue that involves multiple layers of regulation and negotiation. The foundation of space governance is Space Law 1.0, which includes treaties such as the Outer Space Treaty (OST), the Rescue Agreement, Liability Convention, Registration Convention, and Moon Treaty. This layer is where interstate negotiations on space governance-related issues happen, and countries are represented through their governments. Blockchain technology can be used to enforce treaties and agreements through smart contracts, which could provide a more secure and transparent method of ensuring compliance and, in theory, enforcement.
Space Law 2.0 comes into play with the entrance of private actors such as Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin into space exploration. It brings negotiations that happen on a global scale to a national level, and it is where intrastate negotiations happen. An example of Space Law 2.0 is the Artemis Accords, which allows private actors to claim private ownership of space resources, something that the OST expressly prohibits. For this reason, many have criticised the Accords as only serving the interests of the founding signatories, who are incidentally the most active space actors. Blockchain could enable decentralised actors to govern transactions outside traditional institutions and jurisdictions, which could help solve governance issues related to private actors in space and the claims of exploitation by countries and corporations most active in space.
Space Law 3.0 is the newest layer of space governance, where private participation and investment in outer-space activities have overtaken government investments. This layer is where inter-operator negotiations happen, and it best embodies the reason why space governance should be jurisdiction-agnostic. Blockchain governance structures could facilitate inter-operator negotiations and help establish better binding rules on private activities, which could improve the sustainability of space operations. The potential uses for space governance are immense, and it has the potential to revolutionize space governance by providing a more secure, transparent, and decentralised method of governing space activities.
As this industry continues to evolve, and as an imaginative futurist, I believe the use of blockchain technology and a symbiotic relationship between AI, blockchain, advanced computing, and additional forms of energy technologies will provide a framework for governance and exploration that can transcend national boundaries and facilitate trust between multiple space-faring civilisations and hopefully countries on Earth.
By ensuring data integrity, providing increased security and transparency, and enabling decentralised actors to govern transactions outside traditional institutions and national jurisdictions, this symbiotic relationship between technologies has the potential to revolutionise our society as we transcend towards the cosmos. Space and its exploration has the potential to establish a new era of collaboration and cooperation on Earth, into the final frontier.