Maryland-based defense contractor Lockheed Martin is teaming up with Protocol Labs’ decentralized Interplanetary File System to build in-space connectivity.
In a bid to reduce dependence on earth-bound servers, aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin will explore the deployment of an in-space network powered by the Interplanetary File System, a peer-to-peer file-sharing system. Instead of clicking on an online resource and retrieving it from a centralized server hosted by Amazon or Google, the requested resource is obtained from multiple nearby locations simultaneously, reducing dependence on a centralized point of failure. “Today’s centralized internet model doesn’t work in space,” says Filecoin Foundation president Marta Belcher. She further states that all that is required to access a file on the IPFS network is to enter an IPFS content identifier. The data is retrieved from the nearest node, rather than through going back and forth between earth and the spacecraft.
Astronauts’ dial-up days
In the early days of space internet connectivity (circa 2015), astronauts relied on a network of satellites to relay data between themselves and a ground receiver, enabling email connectivity, news, and video-conferencing. While the bandwidth capability of these links was high, the time taken for the signal to propagate either way was long compared to terrestrial signals. Now, with IPFS, If someone nearby has already obtained the data, it can be retrieved from that person’s computer using a content-id, a cryptographic hash of the data in the file.
“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,” says Joe Landon, a who’s a senior executive at Lockheed’s Advanced Programs Development division.
Benchmarking experiments are pending
The Filecoin Foundation, which operates the Filecoin peer-to-peer network upon which IPFS is built, and Lockheed will jointly investigate which spacecraft in Lockheed’s lineup will be appropriate to host IPFS “nodes” by the end of August this year. They will also look into experimental missions to evaluate the effectiveness of using IPFS in space. “We need to develop the technology to support a long-term presence in space,” Landon added.
Juan Benet, the founder of Protocol Labs, developed the IPFS in 2014 to address the limitations of the hyper-text transfer protocol, which, when initially created, served its purpose well for web pages, moving around small bits of information. The influx of high-bandwidth content, such as HD video streaming, resulted in more powerful computers. However, the system moving the data remained the same until Benet created what he hoped would become a “new major subsystem of the internet” using blockchain technology. “IPFS was, and still is, developed as the data transfer protocol of Web 3.0,” says Mikeal Rogers, engineering manager at Protocol Labs.
Another project using the IPFS system includes Arweave, which aims to provide a permanent, decentralized, blockchain-based storage system to preserve historical events, most recently the lockdown in China. Chinese citizens wishing to add their experiences to history made NFTs of videos from the most recent lockdowns in Shanghai, minted them as NFTs, with the media content being uploaded to Arweave.
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