Crypto boosters have long claimed to be going to the moon, but it appears the blockchain technology will soon actually reach space. Lockheed Martin on Monday announced plans to host a decentralized storage network in space, as it hopes to build infrastructure that can sustain life in space.
To work towards that lofty goal, the aerospace and defence giant will harness what’s aptly called the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), which was created in 2015. It’s “decentralized” storage because instead of serverfarms, like those run by Amazon or Google, files are stored by users around the world. It’s developed by Protocol Labs, which also created the Filecoin cryptocurrency that’s rewarded to those who create IPFS “nodes” and host files there.
While typical storage uses location-based identfication — that is, finding a file on a server and retrieving it — IPFS uses content-based identification. When you click on a link to a file, the system searches for all the places it’s hosted and retrieves it. Files are retrieved from multiple users at once and, crucially, the system automatically pulls from nodes closest to you.
That’s the key point for Lockheed Martin, which builds spacecrafts and satellites. If IPFS nodes are hosted in space, it would mean information could be retrieved from them rather than servers back on Earth.
“As we explore further into space, we need to develop in-space infrastructure to ensure that the space economy can grow and thrive without having to rely entirely on Earth,” said Lockheed Martin’s Vice President of Advanced Programs Development, Joe Landon. “We need to develop the technology to support a long-term presence in space.”
“Together, the Filecoin Foundation and Lockheed Martin will develop a mission to demonstrate IPFS in space.”
Lockheed Martin and the Filecoin Foundation will by the end of August finish an investigate into which spacecraft is an appropriate host of the equipment that makes IPFS possible as well as find “opportunities for demonstration missions that harness IPFS’ utility in space,” according to a Filecoin blog post.
Proponents of IPFS, which aims to compete with the HTTP protocol we all know and love, say it’s a more secure and resistant to censorship. When a French server factory went up in flames last year, it tooks hundreds of sites down with it. Since IPFS content is hosted by users all around the world, a local incident like that would theoretically not cause worldwide outages. It also means governments can’t censor information as easily. In 2017 Turkey banned Wikipedia, but hacktivists hosted the entire site on IPFS, which the government was unable to shut down.
“Today’s centralized Internet model doesn’t work in space,” said Marta Belcher, Filecoin Foundation president. “Using IPFS, data does not need to go back and forth from Earth with every click; instead, when you put in an IPFS ‘content ID,’ that content is retrieved from wherever is closest, rather than being retrieved from a particular server in a particular place.
“That means if someone else nearby on the Moon has already retrieved that data, the data only has to travel a short distance and can get to you quickly instead of traveling back and forth from Earth with every click.”