NASA Researching Ethereum Blockchain for Safe Space Exploration

‘Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm’ is a new research project being put on in partnership with and funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that aims to utilize smart contracts on Ethereum’s blockchain to allow spacecraft safer passage through space.

The goal of the project is to develop a “data-driven cognitive networking management architecture” that can help spacecraft make decisions on its own, without the need for guidance from scientists back on earth. The concept uses Ethereum-based smart contracts to sense and avoid scattered space debris. Such a system could prevent potentially substantial and costly damage from a collision.

The project is being led by Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Akron Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis, who is a recipient of a $333,000, three-year NASA Early Career Faculty grant.

Wei Kocsis explains how the Ethereum blockchain is involved in the project:

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

Advanced Communications Program Manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Thomas Kacpura said that it is the first time NASA has considered blockchain technology and its application in space communication and navigation. Kacpura believes that the project will “support decentralized processing among NASA space network nodes in a secure fashion, resulting in a more responsive, resilient scalable network that can integrate current and future networks in a consistent manner.”

Kacpura concludes that “the potential is high to contribute to the next generation space networks.”

Wei Kocsis is hopeful that the technology will give scientists more time to analyze data by allowing the spacecraft to “think” on its own through environmental threat detection and automated evasion techniques. Wei Kocsis says she is “honored” that NASA has recognized her work, and is “excited to continue challenging technology’s ability to think and do on its own.”