At 12:29 EST on Thursday, SpaceX's Falcon9 rocket successfully delivered the first cryptotocurrency wallet into the stratosphere.
The cryptowallet was built by developers at SpaceChain. Weighing at 1kg, or only a fraction of SpaceX CRS-19 resupply mission's 2,600kg payload, it became the first active Bitcoin node to orbit the Earth at 5 miles per second when it arrived at the International Space Station (ISS).
For SpaceChain, the launch is a step forward in its mission of building out a robust, decentralized blockchain infrastructure high above the Earth.
Cryptocurrency wallets are literally beyond jurisdiction, but by putting one in space would make this particular wallet well above the reach of any physical hardware hacks.
SpaceChain sees the milestone as a radical new way to make cryptocurrency transactions more secure. This was SpaceChain's third launch, and had been the 23-person company’s full-time focus for much of 2019.
It was a milestone they’ve been willing to achieve since the company first proposed it 18 months prior, and was fundamentally different from the other two nodes SpaceChain has put into orbit.
It was a successful launch! The space node is now bound for the largest man-made object in space, the @Space_Station!#BlockchainISS #space #blockchain #technology #satellite pic.twitter.com/IGBDL9eNNI
— SpaceChain Foundation (@SpaceChain) December 5, 2019
According to Zee Zheng, SpaceChain’s CEO and co-founder, the wallet is only a small portion of the overall network. But the important part is that, the achievement is for a long-term goal.
“We put all the company’s resources into it,” said Zheng. “For us, it’s kind of tricky."
"There’s no existing space-tested hardware available, so even to install our own software we needed to make major changes.”
Building a space wallet was one thing; making it compliant for use on the ISS was something completely different. Before putting it into orbit, the SpaceChain’s open-source protocol had to be vetted by NASA and retrofitted for the ISS's unique plug architecture, Zheng said
Once the astronauts installed it on NanoRacks’ commercial platform on board the ISS, the node should be able to operate for about a year securing multi-signature transactions through the ISS data feed.
The mission was made a reality following a ‘Space Act’ agreement between NanoRacks and NASA.
"The integration of space and blockchain technologies has uncovered new possibilities and opportunities and we are very excited about the prospect of working closely with financial service providers, fintech and Bitcoin developers, IoT service providers, research institutions, and space agencies in the coming months to further accelerate advancements within the ecosystem,” said Zheng.
What's next after arriving at the @Space_Station? Here's an #infographic to get you up to speed from start to finish about SpaceChain's 3rd space node launch!#BlockchainISS #space #blockchain #technology pic.twitter.com/2OgapNGpAG
— SpaceChain Foundation (@SpaceChain) December 8, 2019
Zheng mentioned Jeff Garzik as SpaceChain’s Chief Technical Officer who helped the company with this achievement.
Garzik was one of the early Bitcoin Core developers, and led SpaceChain’s effort to build out the software to be integrated with the ISS. He’s also been thinking about putting blockchain into space even before SpaceChain was founded, said Zheng.
“About five years ago in the bitcointalk forum, Jeff wrote an article about bitcoin in space,” said Zheng. “It’s been his dream for a while.”
This launch was far beyond SpaceChain's previous space projects, which was a Raspberry Pi equipped with a Qtum node that the company launched from China’s Gobi desert in February 2018. It was also far beyond the company's second launch, also from China, that delivered a hardware that could run blockchain dApps on the SpaceChain OS and capable of communicating directly with the ground.
The blockchain node inside the ISS is meant to operate independently of SpaceChain’s past launches. It can't communicate with the previous nodes, and all communications are routed through the ISS feed to the ground.
What this means, the device should rely on a much slower connection, as it can take hours, and not minutes for any single transaction to complete.
“We actually want to make slower,” said Zheng. "We see so many crypto exchanges get hacked. And within two minutes the funds – millions of dollars – get transferred. By utilizing this channel we can not only secure transactions,” but have a chance to intercept suspicious activity."
“We’re welcoming anyone to join the revolution,” added Zheng.