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Adam Back: “Don’t Trust the Operator” Beaming Bitcoin from Space

Blockchain technology company Blockstream, which is one of several institutions funding the development of Bitcoin Core, announced in August 2017 the launch of a satellite network beaming bitcoin from space to people across earth without internet. Blockstream, to be certain, did not launch the satellites themselves. It is leasing bandwidth on four commercial satellites: GALAXY 18, EUTELSAT 113, TELSTAR 11N and TELSTAR 18V.

Satellite API

In order for Blockstream’s satellite network to beam the blockchain to your computer, you’ll need a computer, a TV satellite dish, a receiver, and a Software-Defined Radio (SDR) USB stick to receive radio frequencies.

The company recently completed coverage for the Asia Pacific region and announced the Satellite API, an API that developers can use to pay via the Lightning Network, a second-layer protocol, utilizing a large network of open two-party channels, to enable multiple payments, without the need to record each one individually to the underlying Bitcoin blockchain, for the transmission of private messages from space.

According to British cryptographer Adam Back in an AMA recently posted to r/bitcoin, it was Chris Cook and Greg Maxwell who came up with the idea to beam Bitcoin from space.  “Work began heavily in late 2016 with surprise product launch in Aug 2017,” said Mr. Back. He also noted that Blockstream operates two teleports (uplink sites), including a 9m dish to reach Telstar 18V, which beams to Asia Pacific.

“The teleports have multiple dishes and can reach each others satellite for data connectivity,” Mr. Back continued. “In terms of payment we expect to use incremental per transaction or message fees to sustain and grow these kind of use cases…” The service is free using testnet coins for a short time while in testing.

“The cost per message or transaction is often reasonable because while it costs a lot relative to average salary in some emerging markets, to have an internet connection fast enough to maintain a full node, the cost per transaction to send or receive a transaction becomes small because they are small typically 250bytes range,” wrote Mr. Back. “[S]o that even at $10/MByte a single transaction could cost less than 1c.”

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