If you have been close enough to the cryptocurrency space, terms such as “to the moon” and “mooning” may be more than familiar to you. Yet as Elon Musk’s recent SpaceX launch indicates, there may be stronger correlations between crypto and space missions than you may think.
Finding its genesis with the “DOGE-1” mission planned by Geometric Energy Corporation, a Canadian space exploration technology firm founded by entrepreneur Samuel Reid, the co-relation between space missions and cryptocurrencies is more deeply intertwined than ever before.
Although the official launch date of “DOGE-1” has yet to be confirmed, the mission is paid for entirely using Dogecoin, and will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the purpose of collecting “lunar-spatial intelligence”.
The “DOGE-1” space mission will also include a unique feature: a space art display that allows advertisers to display their images in space. The space art display is controlled using tokenized claims based on the Xi Protocol. These tokenized claims represent different parameters such as height, width, brightness, hue, and placement time on the screen.
In other words, advertisers can purchase these tokenized claims to control how their ad image is displayed on the space art display. Each of the five tokenized claims represents a specific parameter that determines how the image appears on the display. For example, the Rho claim might represent the height of the image, while the Beta claim represents the width, and so on.
The structure of this space art display may resemble other online artboards, such as The Million Dollar Homepage or r/place. However, instead of being displayed on a website, the images are displayed in space and are captured by a satellite-mounted camera before being broadcast back to Earth.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX launch on Thursday, 21 April 2023, further stoked excitement for space travel amongst the crypto community. SpaceX’s Starship, which is also the most powerful unmanned rocket built to date, flew for nearly 4 minutes and successfully separated from the Super Heavy booster before succumbing to a “rapid unscheduled disassembly”, exploding mid-flight.
Yet Musk has stated that the company has learned “a lot” from the launch and will be scheduling another test launch in a few months.
Interestingly, the implosion of Starship has had a similar impact on Dogecoin as well. Over the past three hours as of 12:15 p.m. ET, the cryptocurrency has fallen 8%, after having steadily risen before the event, reflecting the disappointment faced by crypto investors across the board at the rocket’s disintegration.
However, space exploration and blockchain have a far deeper relationship beyond just price movements.
Blockchain and Space Exploration
Blockchain technology has already been used in space by organizations such as Blockstream and SpaceChain, and private space companies are exploring the potential of using utility tokens to fund missions and monetize data gathered on previous ones.
Satellite communication is an easy and understandable application for blockchain, and the infrastructure to support greater space exploration is still being developed. The transparency provided by blockchain could prove particularly useful for the satellite broadband industry, which relies on satellite launches for its viability. The ongoing race to build extensive satellite constellations, including thousands of small satellites to provide high-speed internet, could benefit greatly from blockchain’s transparency.
Aravind Ravichandran, a researcher at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), has observed that a few companies have taken the lead in exploring blockchain applications in space, citing the example of ConsenSys Space, which has developed a blockchain-based database to pinpoint the position of satellites. This is particularly important as more companies launch fleets of satellites into space, increasing the risk of collisions with debris.
The success of private space companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin has inspired others to join the fray, an area previously limited to NASA and the ESA. However, test flights can be very expensive and funding can be difficult to secure, making failure a significant risk for companies.
Despite a surge in demand for launching swarms of satellites using bigger rockets, rocket startups in the United States are facing a funding environment characterized by a tight investment market. This dichotomy has resulted in an increase in the number of startups seeking funding, while investors are more cautious, leading to a drop in venture investment in space startups by 50% YoY to $21.9 billion in 2022, according to VC firm Space Capital. The cost of capital is also on the rise, with the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes leading to less incentive for investors to fund capital-intensive projects without a clear revenue stream or profitability path.
Additionally, regulatory challenges and low adoption rates mean that some companies are adopting a wait-and-see approach before investing in space-based blockchain solutions.
Despite the increasing costs tied to space exploration as well as hawkish regulatory scrutiny, it is undeniable that blockchain could increase transparency and efficiency in processes such as manufacturing and supply chain management and could eventually lead to the creation of more space-based blockchain applications.
However, tokenization provides an alternative funding source that may make it possible for many individuals who were previously unable to participate to engage in such efforts. If these funding concerns can be addressed through the utilization of alternative capital structures and sources, it could lead to increased access to space for more companies, potentially enabling dreams of space exploration and knowledge acquisition that could benefit society as a whole.
Indeed, blockchain’s potential to transform supply chains and enable new revenue streams from space exploration has the potential to make previously unattainable goals practical. As we continue to explore the possibilities of blockchain in space, it may become one of the most impactful tools in the space industry.
The concept of being one step closer to the cosmos has always been an exhilarating thought and concept held by humanity since the dawn of time, and participating in the space economy may now be easier and more accessible for us than ever before.
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