Tech 19 April 2018

Dennis Wafula

Blockchain-guided autonomous spacecraft gets NASA green light

An Ohio professor has been awarded a three-year $330,000 NASA grant to begin the development of a blockchain-based technology that will enable autonomous spacecraft to make decisions on its own.

Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Akron in Ohio, is punting on blockchain technology for her team’s “Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm” (RNCP) project, which could pave the way for spacecraft that could automatically detect and dodge space debris.

In a statement, Kocsis said blockchain technology could help record space data and execute decentralized codes, helping the spacecraft make decisions without depending on commands from Earth.

The technology will be useful to spacecraft operating in deep space environments. Normally, it takes many hours, depending on the position of the spacecraft, to get feedback from Earth, which might not be so helpful during emergencies. The technology will help spacecraft make decisions such as dodge space debris and more during their operations. The decentralized commands will reduce damage or complete incapacitation to the spacecraft.

“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,” Kocsis said. “The blockchain consensus protocols will be further explored to improve the resilience of the infrastructure.”

In addition to decision-making and keeping records, the technology will help scientists use their time to research on other matters. A lot of time is spent on waiting and sending communication from space and recording data. With the new technology in place, scientists will be able to work on other pending matters that could better and improve life on Earth.

Thomas Kacpura, advanced communication manager at NASA’s Glenn Research center, said it is the first time NASA is exploring the use of blockchain technology for space communication and navigation. It is, however, unclear when this project will be completed.

Blockchain technology is being used to create applications and systems like the Amazon streaming data system. The European Space Agency (ESA) is also exploring blockchain application uses cases for its system. It has done a research and published a paper titled “Distributed Ledger Technology: Leveraging Blockchain for ESA’s Success.”

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