NASA space center
NASA space center in Cape Canaveral, Florida with the Kennedy memorial next to the NASA globe. Ingus Kruklitis/Shutterstock

On August 25, U.S. tech firms Orbit Logic and Fraunhofer USA Center for Experimental Software Engineering were awarded $124,800 by NASA to build a blockchain-based communications solution called SCRAMBL (Space Communication Reconstruction and Mapping with Blockchain Ledgering), CoinDesk first reported. SCRAMBL will leverage blockchain technology to distribute a ledger of constellation-relevant shared data that could be propagated between networking satellites.

The ledger will contain hosts, events, states, objectives, and plans that constitute a Common Relevant Operating Picture (CROP), which will be “key to enabling a space network’s coordination and overall awareness”. SCRAMBL is expected to allow a constellation to achieve greater overall system utility with a blockchain algorithm that routinely evaluates and recomposes the system networking graph.

This way, any spacecraft node can determine the most effective method of routing a message to any other node in a quick and efficient way. If one ever cuts out, the adaptive blockchain algorithm, complemented by Orbit Logic’s Autonomous Planning System (APS), will allow the rest of the nodes to dynamically adapt, successfully routing around spacecraft communication disruptions and disconnections.

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“The space-specific algorithms to be developed under this research topic will be lightweight and tailored toward efficient execution on the resource-constrained computing elements used on satellites. The network path routing optimizations performed will scale well as the constellation is grown, dynamically adapting to the future addition of assets (late joiners),” the brief described.

The system was proposed in response to the need for quadcopter swarms to stay nimble in inhospitable environments, where communication is fluctuating but operational awareness is of utmost importance. According to both companies who won the grant, the flexibility of blockchain technology can be the solution to this problem and of particular use to NASA’s drones as currently, the organization is spending billions on a quadcopter-based mission to Saturn.

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