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Bitcoin Over Satellite: One Step Closer to Everyone

Sead Fadilpašić
Last updated: | 2 min read

Blockchain technology firm Blockstream announced that they have expanded their satellite service to cover the Asia-Pacific region, as well as adding support for Lightning Network transactions. Their Blockstream Satellite lets users transfer bitcoins through leased satellites, bringing the nascent technology closer to those who might otherwise be impeded in accessing it.

Source: Blockstream

Initially launched in August 2017, the satellite was first available to users from Africa, Europe and the Americas, with the goal to let users access Bitcoin without the need for an internet connection. Now, a new application programming interface (API) lets users send encrypted messages to each other from some of the remotest regions on Earth and pay for those message in bitcoin using the Lightning Network service. The company’s chief strategy officer, Samson Mow, told Forbes, “Bitcoin has always been about uncensorable money, and now we have uncensorable communications as well.”

Blockstream Satellite coverage:

Source: Blockstream

Meanwhile, CEO Adam Back added that he expects the new satellite and API to lead to increased development of smartphone and feature phone applications that link together Blockstream’s GreenAddress bitcoin wallet, its Liquid Network for enabling faster transactions between exchanges, and its Cryptocurrency Data Feed for real-time and historical bitcoin exchange data, developed in partnership with the New York Stock Exchange parent company.

Because the entire Bitcoin blockchain will be broadcast, even miners will be able to use the satellite connection for mining: “You could set up a bitcoin mining operation in the middle of the desert powered by solar,” said Back.

“While satellite communications are traditionally cost-prohibitive, Blockstream Satellite will finally allow developers to adopt satellite communications in their applications […] Natural disaster notifications, secure personal messaging, and sending bitcoin market data to remote locations are just some of the exciting examples of the power of this service,” Chris Cook, head of the Blockstream Satellite project, was quoted as saying in the official announcement by the company.

Meanwhile, some members of the cryptoverse just found a way how to use this new opportunity:

However, one needs to build a receiver first, that might cost around USD 139, according to a Blockstream Satellite parts list published on Amazon. Also, on its Github page, the company explains how to set-up this satellite.

Using a peer-to-peer system both for sending funds and communicating, especially during natural disasters, has been the focus of many other projects as well. One of them is Proof of Life, made by a group of developers using a portable hard drive, a solar battery pack, a shortwave radio, and a lot of technical knowledge. This off-grid technology is not just meant to be used for sending cryptocurrencies – it also guarantees the ability to send immutable information all over the world without relying on the grid. For example, victims of disasters could communicate with the outside world, making rescue operations and getting help much more efficient.