Spacex unveiled on Wednesday details of their plans to deploy a new internet backbone in low-Earth orbit. The private spacecraft company’s 4,425 broadband satellites will create a “mesh network” which could boost Bitcoin’s decentralization.
What is Spacex?
Founded in 2002 by CEO Elon Musk, Spacex designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft “to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets,” its website describes. The company has been taking astronauts and supplies to and from the International Space Station since May 2012, providing regular cargo resupply missions for NASA. Today, it employs around 6,000 people and has three vehicles: Falcon9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon.
4,425 Broadband Satellites Creating ‘Mesh Network’
Last November, Spacex filed an application for satellite space station authorizations with the US Federal Communications Commission. “Spacex wants to launch 4,425 satellites into low-Earth orbits, with altitudes ranging from 715 miles to 823 miles” to offer gigabit-speed broadband internet to the world, Ars Technica reported.
Then, on Wednesday, Spacex followed up with new details during a Senate hearing at the U.S. Capitol. The company revealed “its planned constellation of 4,425 broadband satellites will launch from the Falcon 9 rocket beginning in 2019 and continue launching in phases until reaching full capacity in 2024,” Ars Technica reports.
In a testimony to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Spacex’s Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs, Patricia Cooper, said:
In space, the satellites will communicate with each other using optical inter-satellite links, in effect creating a “mesh network” flying overhead that will enable seamless network management and continuity of service.
Benefits to Bitcoin
Mesh networking has long been discussed in the Bitcoin community as a better configuration to deploy Bitcoin nodes globally. “Mesh networks promise to build decentralized, ubiquitous, resilient, and community-owned network infrastructure,” explained Shaddi Hasan of UC Berkeley, in his 2013 masters thesis ‘Designing Networks for Large-Scale Blackout Circumvention.’ “This vision is admittedly compelling, particularly for those working against Internet censorship,” he wrote.
Such a network should, in theory, allow Bitcoin nodes to route around controls by any one government or other types of blockages, making them ideal for use with Bitcoin. Wednesday’s presentation by Spacex confirms that their new, space-based infrastructure for the internet would be a type of mesh network, offering accessibility and resilience that Bitcoin users are looking for.
Spacex’s Mesh Network Could Still be Centralized
In Wednesday’s hearing, Cooper said that their customers would access this network via “Spacex user terminals,” which are “essentially, a relatively small flat panel, roughly the size of a laptop.” They will “use similar phased array technologies to allow for highly directive, steered antenna beams that track the system’s low-Earth orbit satellites,” she described. However, she did not offer any more details on whether third party software could be loaded or confirm whether Spacex’s network will force users to connect only through their terminals.
Do you think Spacex’s new internet infrastructure will help or hinder Bitcoin? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Wikipedia, Kerbal Space Program Forums, and Spacex