If all goes to plan, Wednesday’s SpaceX rocket launch in Florida will blast a “crypto-satellite” into low Earth orbit, paving the way for secure blockchain-related cryptography in space.
Cryptosat, as the name hints, is the company that created Crypto1, a crypto-satellite module hitching a ride aboard a Falcon 9 rocket for SpaceX’s Transporter 5 mission. The blockchain satellite technology has already been trialed on the International Space Station.
“We’re basically joining the Uber of spaceflight,” co-founder of Cryptosat Yonatan Winetraub told Cointelegraph, “Everybody goes into the same orbit and we’re one of the passengers.”
“SpaceX launch a bunch of satellites, each one of them is doing something else,” he added, “It doesn’t matter for our service, we are hoping to use our satellite to provide cryptographic services for our customers here on Earth which won’t interfere with the other satellites at all.”
The Crypto1 satellite is a coffee mug-sized module created using over-the-counter parts. In space, it will provide a physically unreachable and tamper-proof platform from which blockchain and ledger applications can be launched.
Co-founder Yan Michalevsky said this type of platform is the first off-world “root-of-trust,” a source that can always be trusted within a cryptographic system that is “not dependent on other satellites by other companies” but actually provides the hardware in orbit, adding:
“There’s a lot of need for this. If we’re looking into protocols, especially in Web3, there are whole financial systems and smart contract systems, kind of digital legal agreements that depend on the trustworthiness of the cryptography behind it.”
Michalevsky said one of the most exciting applications for the module is to set up zero-knowledge proof protocols, which he says are being used more often for uses like voting in a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) to make decisions without exposing individuals’ votes.
Other applications for the module include the possible deployment of an entire blockchain, having the ledger out of reach from attackers could mean crypto mining could become a relic of the past, as it would theoretically no longer need decentralization through multiple validators.
He said a trusted module in space is required, given attackers have the incentive and ability to gain access to Earth-based modules. However, the technology to capture and tamper with a satellite isn’t available.
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“Another feature that is unique is as the communication is done via radio frequency you can’t really hide and do an attack,” Winetraub added, “anybody with an antenna will know if you’re doing something funny:”
“We’ve seen a great boom in blockchain technology in recent years, and we can provide these services out in space. What we hope is to be able to service the blockchain industry and provide these modules that everybody can count on with a level of security that is unprecedented.”
Satellite communication with the ground is a sticking point for any organization with an asset in orbit, as uploading data from Earth is slow. Winetraub said that “internet communication is not something that is trivial to do in space.”
“Working with a space asset is not the same as working here on Earth,” he added, “on the ground, if something goes wrong, you just open a terminal and debug it. When it happens in space, that’s not always available:”
“It goes around the Earth, we start debugging, we figure out the problem, now we need to wait an hour and a half until it comes back around.”
He said bridging the gap between what people are used to in terms of fast internet communication and the constraints of space is an ongoing effort that started with a series of experiments the firm conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this year.
In March, a Cryptosat satellite took part in multiple experiments on the ISS, and one experiment created cryptographic signatures with the keys generated and kept in space. Tweets mentioning a Cryptosat Twitter account generated the certificate with a digital signature over the tweet in reply to the mention.
Speaking on the experiments Michalevsky said they “enabled us to establish interesting use cases in the space,” adding:
“Essentially, what we were doing with this experiment was practicing operations on our end, in terms of communicating with space, working with space agencies, running code both on the ground and in space and having them work together.”
On what’s next for Cryptosat after the launch, Michalevsky said they’re not patting themselves on the back and taking a break just yet:
“We’re already in the stages of planning the next satellite, hopefully aiming for the end of this year, as there’s a lot to do such as continuing to upgrade the software platform.”
“We’re aiming for several of the modules in orbit in these initial stages,” he added, “but ultimately we foresee potentially a couple dozen of them to provide continuous availability as they’re orbiting the Earth.”
Expansion on the ground to communicate with the orbiting modules was also on the cards for the firm, with Michalevsky saying the goal is to have a ground station seeing at least one satellite at all times.
The consumer-facing product is an area Michalevsky wants to work on, too, as he says the space industry doesn’t have simple interfaces for users of Web3 applications:
“We want to build really great API’s to provide things like signing NFTs in space, provide things that are not only enterprise and back end applications but also very useful for consumers, and then enable them to build financial infrastructures on top of this constellation of trusted satellites.”
He added: “We’ll dig deeply into the blockchain space and create a lot of ground infrastructure that would be interoperable with the blockchains different protocols.”