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article imageNASA to use blockchain tech in distributed spacecraft missions

By Karen Graham     Feb 1, 2018 in Technology
Distributive ledger technology also called DLT, has now emerged across a wide range of sectors, so it is no wonder that NASA is now looking into these applications of blockchain technology for distributed spacecraft missions (DSM).
Keep in mind that a blockchain is a type of public distributed ledger, and is the primary underlying technology for Bitcoin. However, new distributed ledgers are emerging. These are databases where control over the data’s evolution is shared between entities. And this type of DLT is needed by space agencies.
On September 13, 2017, NASA had a fantastic presentation titled "Bitcoin, Blockchains and Efficient Distributed Spacecraft Mission Control." One of the main points in the presentation was the notion that blockchain technology could have useful applications in distributed spacecraft missions (DSMs) involving multiple elements.
Self-portrait of NASA s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken at the rock drilling...
Self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken at the rock drilling target "John Klein" at Gale Crater on Mars.
NASA
Sensors in a brave new world
NASA is looking to use smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain in the agency's SensorWeb program. The main objective of the program is to create an interoperable environment for a diverse set of satellite sensors via the use of software and the Internet.
Most people are aware of the use of sensors in everything from autonomous vehicle technologies to applications on high-flying satellites. With satellite sensors, we can better understand physical phenomena and their impacts by monitoring volcanic eruptions, fires, and floods.
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NASA
All the data collected by sensors facilitates scientific investigation, especially when existing satellite, airborne and ground sensors are used for required observations. This makes it easy to create customized data sets which can then be delivered via Web 2.0 tools. By using open tools, like Google Earth, data sets can be superimposed for purposes of visualization or calibration.
Basically, the whole mission of SensorWeb is to make discovery and access to sensor data as easy as looking for and finding a website on the Internet.
Making space hardware smarter and more autonomous
In September 2017, NASA awarded a $333,000 grant to University of Akron (UA) Assistant Professor Jin Wei to research how to make space hardware smarter and more autonomous. This is an important issue because efficient communications systems and effective computing techniques are crucial to ensure the success of each NASA mission.
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NASA
And with deep space missions, that communications lag-time makes it impossible to monitor and telecommand space probes in real time. This is why deep space probes and missions like the Mars Rover require onboard artificial intelligence (AI) for autonomous operation.
Professor Wei's project is called: "RNCP: A Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm for NASA Space Exploration." The intent of the project is to develop a resilient networking and computing paradigm (RNCP) that consists of two essential parts - A secure and decentralized computing infrastructure, and a data-driven cognitive networking management architecture.
"I hope to develop technology that can recognize environmental threats and avoid them, as well as complete a number of tasks automatically," said Wei. "I am honored that NASA recognized my work, and I am excited to continue challenging technology's ability to think and do on its own."
NOAA s GOES16 satellite captured this colorized-infrared imagery of Hurricane Maria over Puerto Rico...
NOAA's GOES16 satellite captured this colorized-infrared imagery of Hurricane Maria over Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017.
NOAA
As Futurism points out, this research is critical to the next few decades of space exploration. NASA is already looking ahead to deep space exploration to distant worlds, like Alpha Centauri and beyond as soon as 2069.
We will have to have spacecraft that can react to their surroundings autonomously and be able to gather information without any input from millions of miles away. And as always, this emerging technology - including blockchain technology, AI, sensor networks and software-defined networking technologies, will be studied and developed and be reused in emerging sectors such as self-driving cars and the Internet of Things (IoT).
More about NASA, blockchain technology, distributed spacecraft missions, sensorweb, computing infrastructure