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A Combination of Bitcoin and Satellites in Space Can Overcome Censorship and Enhance Freedom

A Combination Of Bitcoin And Satellites In Space Can Overcome Censorship And Enhance Freedom

Censorship is one of the greatest threats to freedom, as well as a threat to basic human rights and liberties. Since the beginning of mankind, censorship has been used by dictators and criminals to stop the flow of important information, which can ultimately result in tragedy and suffering. This is because if there is a lack of truthful information then society cannot mobilize to fix critical problems, allowing those problems to persist and possibly worsen.

One of the starkest examples of censorship in our modern world is China, which has built the Great Firewall around the country’s internet network. The Great Firewall filters and censors the internet for 340 million users in China, with 40,000 internet police constantly working to ensure complete censorship. It is estimated that 500,000 websites are outright blocked by the Great Firewall, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and The New York Times. Also, information about past Chinese cultural revolutions, such as in Tibet and Tiananmen Square, is censored.

Internet users can go to jail for trying to circumvent the Great Firewall or posting content that can be considered critical of the government. So far at least 80 people have been imprisoned, including 30 journalists. China has totally banned anonymity as well, and users must register their real identity before posting on social media or anywhere else.

The internet censorship situation in China sounds like something right out of the dystopian novel “1984“, and the problem is certainly not limited to China. In-fact, it would be hard to find any country in the world that is purely censorship-free. The Freedom on the Net 2018 report indicates that internet censorship has increased in 26 countries since 2017, including the United States.

Fortunately, it appears a combination of Bitcoin and satellites in space orbiting high above the Earth, may provide a communication channel that can override censorship anywhere in the world.

The Blockstream Satellites are a constellation of four satellites in geosynchronous orbit codenamed GALAXY18, EUTELSAT 113, TELSTAR 11N, and TELSTAR 18V. These satellites provide coverage to most of North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. However, there is a coverage gap in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and a sizable chunk of Russia. That being said, the Blockstream Satellites provide coverage to most of the people in the world.

The caveat is that users must obtain a small satellite antenna and a USB receiver before tapping into the Blockstream Satellite network, but apparently, this only costs about $100.

The Blockstream Satellites are designed to run a full Bitcoin node, which includes the entire history of the blockchain. The point is that users who lack local internet can connect to the Blockstream Satellites and send or receive Bitcoin. This makes the Bitcoin network more robust, since now it is possible to use Bitcoin even if the power and internet go out during a disaster.

Aside from being able to broadcast the Bitcoin blockchain and Bitcoin transactions, the Blockstream Satellites also have the capability to broadcast plain text messages across the world, and even files as long as they are less than 10 KB in size. Anyone with the proper equipment can then receive the transmission, no matter the censorship rules in their country.

It is important to note that broadcasting data with the Blockstream Satellites cost a small fee, and this is paid in Bitcoin. Due to Bitcoin’s pseudo-anonymous, immutable, and decentralized nature, it is the perfect choice for paying these transmission fees. A user can remain anonymous when paying with Bitcoin, which can end up saving the user’s life if they are sending a message in violation of censorship laws. Also, the Bitcoin network cannot be interfered with by any centralized entity, ensuring that payments for Blockstream Satellite transmissions are never interrupted.

Since the Blockstream Satellites require a relatively small fee to transmit, and Bitcoin transaction fees can sometimes increase to $1 or even $10 per transaction, the Blockstream Satellites are using the Lightning Network for Bitcoin payments rather than regular blockchain transactions.

The Lightning Network is a 2nd layer scalability solution for Bitcoin, and it functions by opening a lightning channel with a regular blockchain transaction and closing that channel with another transaction. While the channel is open, it is possible to send an infinite amount of Bitcoin transactions over that channel with practically zero fees. Therefore, Blockstream Satellites use the Lightning Network so users do not encounter significant Bitcoin transaction fees when sending the micropayment for satellite transmission.

Putting all of this information together, essentially the Blockstream Satellites can be used to broadcast messages anywhere in the world, and anyone with some basic satellite equipment can receive the message, regardless of the censorship laws in their country. Bitcoin’s Lightning Network is used to pay for transmission fees since it preserves the anonymity of users, Bitcoin works 100% of the time since it is decentralized, ensuring that users can always transmit messages, and the Lightning Network has negligible transaction fees.

It is clear how transmitting messages via the Blockstream Satellites is a powerful tool to circumvent censorship. Perhaps in the future, or possibly even right now, the Blockstream Satellites are being used to bring about positive social change by spreading critical and truthful information that would otherwise be covered up by the government or other organizations.

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Blockchain in Space: Decentralizing the Final Frontier

Blockchain In Space_ Decentralizing The Final Frontier

Only a decade after the launch of Bitcoin and the simultaneous creation of blockchain technology, there are now multiple companies developing blockchain-based decentralized networks in space. Blockchain technology seems to be a natural fit for space exploration due to its immutability and decentralization, ensuring fair and safe internet access amid an increasingly fierce space race between corporations and governments.

In order to understand the utility of blockchain in space, and why blockchain technology will likely play a critical role in future space exploration, it is important to recap how the space race has evolved up to this point.

Old benchmarks

It has only been 62 years since the first satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched into space by the Soviet Union in 1957. Although Sputnik 1 was relatively simple, having only a couple of radio transmitters that emitted periodic beeps, its launch captured the imagination of the world and kicked off the space race.

The Soviet Union went on to become the first nation to launch a satellite to the Moon in 1959, launched the first human into space in 1961, conducted the first flyby of Venus in 1961, and landed the first spacecraft on the Moon in 1966. However, the United States rapidly developed its own space program called NASA, and in 1967 it landed the first humans on the Moon via the Apollo 11 mission.

Although Apollo 11 was a dazzling success, the near loss of Apollo 13 in 1970 led to a public realization regarding how dangerous and costly space travel is, and by 1972 the last Apollo mission launched. Humans have not returned to the moon since then. Over the next couple of decades, NASA went on to explore the rest of the Solar System with the Pioneer and Voyager missions, as well as other robotic missions, but the original space race has become stale with no astronauts launching beyond low Earth orbit in the past 47 years.

New money

A new private space race kicked off in the year 2000, bringing new life to the ultimate sci-fi dream of colonizing space. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world, created Blue Origin in the year 2000. The ultimate goal of Blue Origin is to create colonies in space as well as a colony on the Moon, although the first moon landing, codenamed Blue Moon, is not scheduled until 2024.

A couple of years after the creation of Blue Origin, Elon Musk founded SpaceX, which is perhaps the leading private space company currently. Since 2006, SpaceX has launched 80 space missions, including numerous satellite launches and resupply trips to the International Space Station. The ultimate goal of SpaceX is to “make life interplanetary”, with missions to the Moon and then Mars. Another competitor in the new private space race is Virgin Galactic, which is focusing on sub-orbital space tourism, with the goal of making space a vacation destination, rather than launching humans into deep space.

Thus, space exploration has become more decentralized, with the space race shifting from being a competition between the United States and the former Soviet Union to being a competition between private companies funded by billionaires. This trend of decentralization in space is being enhanced by the launch of the first blockchain-based satellites, Blockstream and SpaceChain.

Decentralizing the final frontier

There are four Blockstream Satellites in geosynchronous orbit 35,786 km above the Earth, codenamed Galaxy 18, Eutelsat 113, Telstar 11N, and Telstar 18V. These satellites provide coverage to most of North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. The point is to provide Bitcoin network connectivity to the world that is independent of ground-based internet.

Ground stations called Teleports beam Bitcoin blockchain information to the Blockstream Satellites, and these then broadcast this information to most of the Earth. Anyone with a small satellite antenna and USB receiver can tap into the Blockstream Satellites and connect to the Bitcoin network.

Bitcoin is the first decentralized global payments network, perhaps superior to fiat money since it cannot be printed at will and users have full control of their funds, and it cannot be frozen or reversed. With the launch of the Blockstream Satellites, Bitcoin is now even more decentralized, and would still function even if ground-based internet is cut off. Indeed, due to the Blockstream Satellites, Bitcoin could very well be the only payment network on Earth that would still be self-sufficient in the event of a disruption in the global electricity or internet grid.

Further, a satellite network can be used to send messages globally via the Bitcoin Lightning Network. For a tiny fee, anyone in the world can broadcast an immutable message to the rest of the planet, showing that Bitcoin can also be the basis for a global decentralized communication system, aside from already being the top global decentralized payment system. Also, developers can create decentralized apps (Dapps) with global coverage via the satellite network.

The Blockstream Satellites are not the only blockchain-based satellites. SpaceChain has launched two satellites into space so far, both of which are running nodes on the Qtum blockchain. The goal of SpaceChain is to create a mesh network of blockchain-based micro-satellites with global coverage, facilitating a decentralized network of cryptocurrency exchanges, data storage, peer-to-peer encrypted messages, a global sensor array, and smart contracts operating from space. Ultimately SpaceChain wants to create an open-source network that will be accessible to all future space infrastructure.

Another interesting blockchain-based space company is SpaceBit, which tokenizes commercial space missions so that anyone could invest in and participate in space missions. Essentially, each particular space mission that SpaceBit launches is funded via a token sale. So far SpaceBit has managed to launch several CubeSat projects, as well as the launch of a nano-satellite via a SpaceX rocket. SpaceBit shows that blockchain-based ventures funded with cryptocurrency token sales can directly interlink with major space companies like SpaceX.

Zooming out to the bigger picture, reliable blockchain-based decentralized networks are exactly what the space exploration industry needs. It would be cumbersome and potentially dangerous for space exploration missions to rely on centralized networks, since they always have a single point of failure, and a network failure while exploring space can lead to the loss of a spacecraft or even death if astronauts are on board.

The fledgling blockchain-based networks Blockstream and SpaceChain have the potential to provide open source and reliable internet access to space missions, and since these networks are decentralized, there is a lower risk for a corporate entity or government to endanger other space missions that they are competing with.

This is perhaps a vision of the future, where decentralized blockchain-based networks in space will be essential to ensure fairness and safety, due to corporations and governments competing to take over all the moons and planets within reach. Blockchain is the obvious choice in such a future since the blockchain is immutable, decentralized, and encrypted.

 

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Bitcoin Core Devs Propose “Erlay” for Stronger, Faster Bitcoin

Bitcoin Core Devs Propose

Yahoo Finance reports that Bitcoin core developer Gregory Maxwell has collaborated with several other developers to come up with the “Erlay” proposal for a stronger and faster Bitcoin network.

Maxwell left Blockstream in January to dedicate his time to “deep protocol work”, so this is the first fruit of his labor, apparently.

Erlay: Bandwidth-efficient transaction relay for bitcoin https://t.co/yTIPk6wx77 paper: https://t.co/pUdseXhGOY by @pwuille, Gleb Naumenko, Greg Maxwell & others.

— Bryan Bishop (@kanzure) May 28, 2019

First announced last night in a post to the Bitcoin Core development mailing list, Gleb Naumenko from the University of British Columbia described Erlay as the announcement of each transaction only to eight outgoing connections, instead of to each peer as currently happens:

“Further relay is achieved by periodically running a set reconciliation protocol over every connection between the sets of withheld announcements in both directions. […] Results: we save half of the bandwidth a node consumes, allow increasing connectivity almost for free, and, as a side effect, better withstand timing attacks. If outbound peer count were increased to 32, Erlay saves around 75% overall bandwidth compared to the current protocol.”

Erlay hence addresses one of the critical pain points for the Bitcoin network, which is nodes consume huge amounts of bandwidth simply to remain in consensus, and is a major cost that full node operators must bear. Because the Bitcoin blockchain currently stands at a massive 200 GB of data, and continues to grow every 10 minutes, this means that a full node must spend days or even weeks to download the initial blockchain for verification and validation.

The Erlay white paper talks about the introduction of “diffusion” to Bitcoin, different from the current method which it brands as a “version of flooding”. It claims a more efficient model of propagating blocks across the network, reducing the bandwidth consumed by each node by as much as 75%.

 

 

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Blockstream: Easier to Make Bitcoin Quantum Secure than Monero

Blockstream: Easier to Make Bitcoin Quantum Secure than Monero

A Blockstream researcher has claimed that it may actually prove easier to protect Bitcoin against the threat of quantum computers, than it may be protect privacy-centric coin Monero.

Potential attacks by quantum computers in the future could one day break blockchain’s so-far secure cryptography, but many theories abound of quantum computers one day becoming powerful enough to decode today’s encryption algorithms. Bitcoin core developer Jimmy Song and experts like Gavin Brennen have dismissed this claims in the past but others, like Blockstream researcher Andrew Poelstra, aren’t so sure.

According to Poelstra, he admitted that even privacy coin Monero was not fully secure:

“The only threat we are aware of to the elliptic curve discrete logarithm problem for the curves that we’re all using there are indeed quantum computers.”

He believed that it was not an immediate cause for concern but the possibility of a quantum computer large enough in terms of qubits to decode the logarithm was not too distant. Meanwhile, he felt that there should efforts to develop systems resilient to these future attacks.

This should actually be easier for a coin like Bitcoin, he claimed. as a transition plan would only require replacing the digital signature algorithm in order to be quantum-resistant. Others like Monero, however, would be more complex to replace.

 

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Japan Approves Trial for Yen-Backed Stablecoin Settlement

Japan Approves Trial for Yen-Backed Stablecoin Settlement

A subsidiary of Japanese internet group Digital Garage has been approved for the first blockchain finance project authorized by the government’s new regulatory sandbox. Crypto Garage will test the issuance of a Japanese yen-backed stablecoin using Blockstream, a Bitcoin infrastructure startup.

Excited to announce @CryptoGarageInc, a Joint Venture between @DigitalGarage, Tokyo Tanshi & @Blockstream, developing #SETTLENET & $JPY #stablecoin for #LiquidNetwork. Alongside the JV, @Blockstream took an additional $10MM strategic investment from DG. 🌊 https://t.co/mOvMsogMOX pic.twitter.com/j82dusL2gO

— Blockstream (@Blockstream) January 21, 2019

A new platform called SettleNet has been launched by Crypto Garage with development aid from Blockstream to conduct the trials, which utilizes the latter’s inter-exchange settlement network Liquid. Settlenet will be used both to test the issuance of the stablecoin as well as conduct payment settlements between it and alternative cryptocurrency assets.

The proof-of-concept trial has been proposed to last the length of one year and will involve only Japanese licensed cryptocurrency exchanges with trades between the yen-backed stablecoin and Blockstream’s Bitcoin-pegged token, Liquid Bitcoin (L-BTC), taking place with restricted volumes for now.

According to Crypto Garage, the network will allow atomic swaps between the two digital currencies for instant trades, creating ”rapid, secure and confidential transfer of the crypto assets while eradicating counterparty risk”.

Digital Garage has been working alongside Blockstream since November 2017 to develop blockchain financial solutions in Japan. The Cabinet Secretariat of Japan is responsible for managing this trial.

 

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NASA Looks to Blockchain for Air Traffic Management

NASA Looks to Blockchain for Air Traffic Management

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is examining the potential of employing a management blockchain to enable secure, private and anonymous communication with air traffic services.

The prototype has already employed Hyperledger and has proven to researchers that this infrastructure would offer rapid deployment at an affordable cost. The paper published by NASA highlights the benefits of the system:

“This framework features certificate authority, smart contract support, and higher-bandwidth communication channels for private information that may be used for secure communication between any specific aircraft and any particular authorized member.”

Another system planned to be launched soon, the Automatic Dependent Surveillance System (ADS-B) which will be mandatory by 2020, has had teething problems. This is mainly due to its susceptibility to third-party spoofing, the reporting of false airport positions, as it publicly broadcasts aircraft positions. NASA researchers have suggested this privacy problem could be overcome by implementing cryptography.

The new Aviation Blockchain Infrastructure (ABI), based on Hyperledger Fabric and smart contracts, would allow control over what data is shared publicly or privately with authorized entities.

NASA has been making blockchain history since its announcement last year that it would fund and co-run a research project utilizing Ethereum blockchain smart contracts in safeguarding deep space travel. That project focused specifically on implementing the technology in improving space communications, ensuring navigations that take place are safer and more efficient. Even earlier in 2017, NASA awarded a USD 330,000 grant to support the development of a blockchain-based spacecraft system.

In December 2018, development firm Blockstream launched a fifth satellite which now broadcasts the Bitcoin blockchain back to Earth.

 

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No Internet? Blocksteam Satellite Now Provides Bitcoin Access to All Major Landmasses

Blocksteam Satellite Constellation Now Covers All Major Landmasses And Provides Entire Bitcoin Blockchain

Tech company Blockstream announced on 17 December 2018 that it has added a fifth satellite to its constellation broadcasting the Bitcoin network. This new satellite covers the Asia-Pacific region, so now all major landmasses on Earth except for Greenland and Antarctica can use Bitcoin via satellites. Further, Blockstream has expanded capabilities to provide a full version of the Bitcoin blockchain, as well as a worldwide anonymous messaging network.

Previously Blockstream satellites only provided the most recent Bitcoin blocks but now will provide the full Bitcoin blockchain. This will allow users worldwide, even in the most remote locations, to run full Bitcoin nodes. This opens up the possibility of mining Bitcoin in locations that are well-removed from internet but rich in renewable energy like solar, geothermal, or hydroelectric.

Perhaps most importantly, Blockstream ensures that Bitcoin can be used independently of the internet, making Bitcoin more decentralized. This also expands the global coverage of the Bitcoin network, since most locations on the Earth can now send and receive Bitcoin transactions. This could be quite useful in disaster scenarios when local internet grid stops working.

A messaging network integrated with onion-routing, similar to Tor, will be launched in January 2019. This will allow users to send completely encrypted messages worldwide without using the internet. Transactions will be paid for via the Bitcoin Lightning Network, with fees calculated per KB of data.

The Blockstream satellite constellation has made Bitcoin independent of the internet and has spread Bitcoin’s network coverage across the globe, giving it an advantage over all other cryptocurrencies.

 

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Bitpay: Bitcoin the “Under Pound Gorilla” Will Eclipse Many Other Currencies

Global Bitcoin payment service provider Bitpay is making some upbeat predictions for 2019 which certainly paint a different picture to the digital currency’s rocky ride as 2018 comes to a close.

The Atlanta-based company’s Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Sonny Singh predicts that 2019 promises to be an “exciting” year which will push Bitcoin’s value up to between USD 15,000 and USD 20,000 by next December.

He believes that with the entry of Fidelity and Intercontinental Exchange into the market and ETFs getting the green light, 2019 will take on a whole new look when it comes down to investment opportunities. He commented it would be Bitcoin that would eclipse many other digital currencies whose fortunes were less easy to foresee, suggesting, “I don’t know what’s going to happen to them.”

He said, “There’s a night and day difference between Bitcoin and everything else. Bitcoin is the under pound gorilla, it’s the one that has the mass network effect… [the one] the traditional financial incumbents are building products around.”

In terms the durability of his gorilla, Sing argues that “Bitcoin survives first”, even in a poor market, despite its fluctuating fortunes. Blockstream CEO Bobby Lee, brother of Litecoin founder Charlie, agrees, suggesting that despite flashes of green in the last 24 hrs, Bitcoin could still threaten USD 3,000 but long-term, he feels it will overtake gold.

In this bear market for #Bitcoin, it’s worth reminding everyone that $BTC is still only one-hundredth of the value of #Gold: $80 billion vs $8 trillion.
Gold is worth 100 times more than Bitcoin today!
What will the ratio be in 10-20 years?
Will it flip, with Bitcoin worth more? pic.twitter.com/VIpzIDKfo0

— Bobby Lee (@bobbyclee) November 20, 2018

Currently, there is a consensus among certain cryptocurrency experts that with Bitcoin’s growing convenience as a payment method, illustrated by the march of ATMs worldwide, along with the digital currency becoming an internationally recognized household name, past hype could surrender to real value. A deflation of Bitcoin could “clean out weak hands”, according to the views of many investors. Serious players in the market would then be left to establish Bitcoin’s real value. EToro analyst Mati Greenspan says the ship isn’t sinking, but simply readjusting to its load:

“What we’re seeing now are the after-effects of the unprecedented rise of Bitcoin and other crypto assets in 2017. This year is simply a retracement of that… These cycles can sometimes be accentuated in the crypto market due to the riskier nature of this nascent industry. In the same way, previous cycles have not signaled the end for broader markets, these price movements don’t signal the end for crypto assets.”

For now, Singh’s gorilla is still in the mist, waiting for its moment to escape.

 

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