Space Is the Place for Crypto

Lunar payloads, asteroid mining, deep space commerce. Where we boldly go, so will crypto.

CoinDesk Insights
Sep 16, 2021 at 4:59 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 16, 2021 at 4:59 p.m. UTC

Daniel Kuhn is a reporter on CoinDesk's Features team. He owns BTC and ETH.

Look up. You can’t see them right now, but if you read this email the day or two after it was sent, there will be four human lives hanging above you. Last night, the Inspiration4 crew reached their cruising altitude of 360 miles above Earth, farther away than the International Space Station or Hubble Space Telescope. It’s a crew composed entirely of non-astronauts, a first, on a trip beyond our atmosphere financed by a payments billionaire.

Why are we taking this orbital interlude in a crypto newsletter? Because the links between crypto and space are growing thick. As the “space economy” is increasingly privatized, it appears as though crypto moguls are determined to be a part of it. Not only that, the two industries are mirrors: real excursions into the weird, great beyond now that the government no longer has a complete monopoly on money or space.

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There are three basic ways crypto and space interact: crypto is a funding source for novel space programs and companies, space is a place to deploy infrastructure to improve crypto networks and crypto could become the monetary standard of future extraterrestrial settlements. There’s nothing inevitable about space colonization or the mass adoption of crypto, but we’re living in a window of time where both can be established.

Yesterday, the Winklevoss twins led a $650,000 seed round into space trade publication Payload. As Axios media reporter Sara Fischer noted, space is currently a $350 billion market. Some 400 space companies were founded in the first two decades of the current century. This capital expenditure is likely to continue, it’s almost assured crypto will play a role.

At the start of next year, for instance, Geometric Energy Corporation plans to launch a 40 kilogram cube satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket headed towards the moon. It’s a trip that reportedly will be funded in full by dogecoin. When announced, SpaceX executive Tom Ochinero said that “DOGE-1” mission “will demonstrate the application of cryptocurrency beyond Earth orbit and set the foundation for interplanetary commerce.”

Then there’s early Bitcoin Core engineer Jeff Garzik, whose SpaceChain corporation is working to integrate space and blockchain technologies. The whole idea is to take advantage of the trustless nature of blockchain to facilitate deep space communication and commerce.

Blockstream, the Bitcoin infrastructure juggernaut, plans to build a floating web of satellites that will make it possible to beam BTC payments across the world, without using the internet, and eventually wherever humans go. This strengthens the Bitcoin network, moving it beyond the reach of nation state attacks and other Earth-bound risks.

Of course, not all explorations end up where intended. In 2018, Ethereum venture studio ConsenSys acquired the asteroid mining startup Planetary Resources and pivoted the firm’s attention to building cosmic blockchain tools. ConsenSys saved the firm from insolvency after failing to secure another round of financing.

But after launching a blockchain-based, crowdsourced satellite-tracking project called TruSat in 2019, the company’s prospects dimmed. Last year, ConsenSys auctioned off the firm’s hardware – someone bought a vacuum chamber for $9,100 – and open sourced its intellectual property.

It’s another world, and where it goes is left for the dreamers.

DISCLOSURE

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