WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin is working with the Filecoin Foundation to demonstrate a blockchain network in space, the organizations announced May 23 at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Joe Landon, vice president of advanced programs development at Lockheed Martin Space, said the goal of the project is to develop a mission to demonstrate the Interplanetary File System, or IPFS, in space. 

IPFS is an open-source network that stores information that can be shared by users. The Filecoin Foundation is an independent organization that facilitates governance of the Filecoin network — a blockchain-based cryptocurrency and digital payment system that builds on top of the IPFS.

Landon said critical infrastructure is needed in space for accessing and sharing data. “Filecoin is a decentralized storage network built on top of IPFS,” he said. “The Filecoin network is powered by a blockchain-based protocol, which is used to incentivize independent storage providers to contribute storage and offer competitive deals to store customer data.”

“We need to develop the technology to support a long-term presence in space without having to rely entirely on Earth-based communications and data storage,” he said. 

Marta Belcher, president and chair of the Filecoin Foundation, said today’s centralized internet model “just doesn’t work in space.”

“Every time you click, that data has to be retrieved from a particular server in a particular place,” she said. “That means that if you’re on the moon, there’s going to be a multi second delay while that data travels from Earth, but with IPFS data isn’t retrieved by where it is, but rather by what it is, so it can be retrieved from whatever’s closest to you, eliminating that delay.”

Over the next several months, Lockheed Martin and Filecoin will work to identify a spacecraft platform to host an IPFS payload that will relay data to and from Earth,and  other spacecraft.

“We are starting out with an exploration phase that will include scoping the technical work required and identifying the right demonstration mission,” said Belcher. “Once we have identified the appropriate mission or missions, we’ll have a longer-term timeline.”

The initial payload demonstration is being planned for low Earth orbit. 

IPFS allows users to back up files and websites by hosting them across numerous nodes. Landon said this project aims to bring the benefits of decentralized storage systems to space. “Ultimately, by minimizing the number of times that data has to be transmitted to Earth and return to space, IPFS’s decentralized storage model will enable more efficient data transfer and communication in space,” he said.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...