Succeeding in the fusion of blockchain and space, Zee Zheng believes that these technologies will enable a new era of seamless global collaboration. Having launched 3 blockchain-enabled satellite payloads into orbit within SpaceChain’s first year of operation, Zee has been recognized as a pioneer in this industry and has been sought as a speaker at events like Space Tech Summit, SpaceTide and Space Forum.
Zee Zheng (SpaceChain CEO)
Interview Date : 23th March 2020
The beginning of Crypto in Space Evolution
I have always been fascinated by blockchain technology. I have been in the bitcoin and Ethereum communities when it was introduced. I was especially involved with Ethereum because I was interested in smart contract implementations on blockchain. In the beginning, I started to look into the blockchain monetary system and its functions to gain knowledge about its payment system and began making smart contract transactions. I decided to venture into blockchain technologies one day. I then met with my mentor, Tim Draper, who is one of the world’s biggest investors in crypto and bitcoin. I started talking about all the ideas with Mr. Draper, leading to the initiation of SpaceChain.
The final kick-off was when I met with my co-founder CTO Jeff Garzik. He was one of the first bitcoin developers, and a key contributor to the bitcoin community. I saw that there were many blockchain and bitcoin decentralized applications already available, but I was puzzled as all the decentralized applications were set up in centralized infrastructures. It’s very interesting to think about that, because you cannot build a decentralized amazon if you get paid by a centralized institution. Jeff and I discussed these kinds of ideas, and we figured that space-based infrastructure would be potentially the best solution. Two years on and SpaceChain already has three launches.
Working in space is not a piece of pie
Working in space and with satellites is always a challenge, and that is the exciting part. The biggest challenge for us is the integration of space and blockchain as the pace of progress of both industries is different. In the blockchain and crypto sphere, there are so many new things happening every week. When we started two and a half years ago, there were many updates daily. Now, governments and big companies are getting involved and it is making the crypto industry more legitimate. However, the space industry has existed in the last 80 to 100 years, and many of such companies are still very traditional. There are space companies that have existed for 30 or 50 years, and newer ones have been around for 10 years which is considered very young. Changes and regulations also take place at a slower pace.
We have to plan a year or two ahead and make predictions on the industry developments within a year. This depends on what the customers’ needs and wants are in that year. As such, one of the major reasons why we focus on security is because we know that it will always be needed. It is part of our strategy and it is challenging because we have to navigate between blockchain communities and space ventures. Many space professionals whom we have talked to are very traditional, and they do not know much about the crypto sphere at all – and all they hear about is about getting hacked and the volatility. We constantly have to educate and explain to them that we are trying to address these challenges and improve the two industries by tapping on the strengths of each industry.
Space is neutral and coverage is greater than land-based infrastructure
The original idea behind SpaceChain was that we wanted to build a decentralized infrastructure, and if we would have gone for traditional land-based infrastructure, we would need to have that infrastructure available globally. From the perspective of connectivity, satellite infrastructure makes greater sense because we can cover wider areas. It is very difficult to set up blockchain infrastructure locally. Moreover, the nature of blockchain is global accessibility, and if we begin to establish connectivity from above land, the coverage is much greater.
Another big difference is that space is more neutral. SpaceChain is a single company, but we have launched in various countries like China and USA, and potentially with partners in other countries in the future. As such, our infrastructure becomes multi-jurisdictional and will be more resistant to potential local risks that can be minimized to keep our infrastructure up and running.
Paper money will not work on mars
In the next century, we could move to Mars and colonize it, and I wonder what form of currency we would be using. Mars is an entirely new entity, and separate from the world economy, so world currencies like the Japanese Yen or the US dollar will simply not cut it. I think bitcoin or a virtual equivalent will be an attractive option as the currency of choice for such hypotheticals. Carrying paper money on Mars would be questionable, while bitcoin will fare much better as the currency of the future.
We are definitely the leading company for space and blockchain integration. We have done three launches, and that is 3 launches ahead of everyone else. SpaceChain was awarded funding from the European Space Agency (ESA) and we have worked with established companies like the International Space Station (ISS) and NanoRacks. SpaceChain is leading this integration and we want to get as many people on board as possible, to let everyone know that space is a fantastic option. When we first started, it was just us, but many companies soon realize the potential of the industry through education and promotions. The vision for SpaceChain is to build a massive constellation of satellite nodes. If more space companies realize the potential of blockchain integration, we can achieve our goal of creating a global decentralized satellite network. We offer open source space technology, and we are happy to share our knowledge and expertise.
Interviewer , Editor : Lina Kamada
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