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Blockstream Satellite API Is Live. What Can I Do With It?

Sead Fadilpašić
Last updated: | 3 min read

Blockchain technology firm Blockstream has announced that their satellite message API (an application programming interface) Beta is now on the mainnet. Now, sending data through space using a satellite and paying for it with bitcoins is easier than ever – but what possibilities does this offer, exactly?

Source: a video screenshot.

Blockstream aims to solve blockchain’s dependence on the internet by replacing it with satellites. 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. In December 2018, the company announced their coverage of the Asia-Pacific region, as well as adding support for Lightning Network payments.

According to the company, the Blockstream Satellite network broadcasts the Bitcoin blockchain around the world 24/7, protecting against network interruptions and providing anyone in the world with the opportunity to use Bitcoin.

Moreover, the satellite message 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. Back in December, 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.”

Now, for those wondering, “What am I supposed to do with this?” we simply say, “Human ingenuity knows no bounds.” You may decide to use this service to send messages and pay for it with bitcoins, but where’s the fun in that? For example, online publication Vice Motherboard has already used the service to send the Communist Manifesto up to space and back to Earth again, where anyone with the right software and dish setup could receive it.

“I sent the passage—the part that says, ‘The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains’—to space, and then back down to Earth, using Bitcoin. My reasoning for doing this was… Well, why the hell not? We live in a world where this is possible, my friends,” writes author Jordan Pearson, without explaining his choice of the Communist Manifesto (it is estimated that communist regimes around the world have killed almost 100 million people.)

Blockstream community manager Dan Williams told Vice about his own favorite message. “The most fascinating message I’ve received was what appeared to be a journal from an anonymous developer in eastern Europe who shared his growing interest in Bitcoin and the technology surrounding it such as Blockstream Satellite and the Lightning Network,” he explained.

The message itself is even better than it sounds. “So here I am, left my job, I have some money to keep me up and I’m building my first raspberry pi lightning node, and broadcasting messages from satellites. Still feels surreal at times,” part of the diary reads.

Then, there are poems, and – of course – memes, except now they’re in encrypted form, like the so-called Rare Pepe. However, all of these were sent over the testnet, which made them free; with the mainnet now live, you will have to pay for the service. “I suspect given low message fees, it’s easier and simpler to pay with real BTC because it’s actually hard to get Test BTC,” explained Blockstream co-founder and CEO Adam Back.

And if you really have a message that you need to broadcast through space, is any fee too high?

Blockstream Satellite Stories: Japan


Also, watch Bitcoin expert Andreas M. Antonopoulos explaining how does the Blockstream satellite work.