An Interview With Jeff Garzik, Bitcoin in Space
Catherine: How long have you been interested in space? Jeff: I’ve been interested in space for as long as I can remember. My father flew fighter jets and worked on rockets early in his career. The Right Stuff was a favorite movie, as was Star Wars. Space fiction or space fact, it didn’t matter, I ate it up.
Catherine: What does Dunvegan Space Systems do? Jeff: Dunvegan Space Systems is on a one-man mission to disrupt the spaceflight industry, through free market principles, bitcoin and engineering knowhow. My engineering background is software engineering in the Linux kernel and on the Internet. Networking. DSS’ aim is to bring networking to space. Although the latency will be measured in minutes not milliseconds, you should be able to download a video from a server on Mars, or view weather.com’s weather forecast for Venus just as easily as you can on Earth. The solar system should be wired for networking, as a first step towards space exploration, and eventually, settlement.
Catherine: Tell us the story of your first Bitcoin transaction. Jeff: I discovered bitcoin in the Great Slashdotting of July 2010. I had thought decentralized digital currency was impossible (or at least improbable). Surely it was trivial counterfeit currency without a central administrator, right? Just copy the file to another computer. Bitcoin was an amazing invention, that proved money without a central administrator was possible, as long as the community reaches agreement on common community rules (21 million limit, etc.).
Catherine: Why send the blockchain into space? Jeff: The blockchain is information that benefits from being spread far and wide. This holds true whether you are posting the blockchain on a website, or putting it up into space. Alternate methods of distributing this information help break through barriers, human and technological, to get bitcoin data to anyone who might want it, whenever they want it.
Bitcoin data in space can function as a resilient backup, or as a way to greatly lower the cost of participating in bitcoin as a “full node.” A “full node” is a bitcoin P2P node that has an entire copy of the blockchain, and offers the blockchain to others — the backbone of bitcoin.
In areas outside the Western world, or on mobile devices, bandwidth is costly. Running a full node becomes too expensive for many. The satellite makes it possible for these folks to use bitcoin, where they could not, before. We can also imagine a nearly-off-grid bitcoin solution. The satellite data feed broadcasts bitcoin payment information, so you may receive payments. Sending is another matter. To send a bitcoin payment, you would need a cheap mobile phone (ie. not a smartphone) and SMS.
Catherine: Have you already worked out arrangements for receiver services? Jeff: The current Phase 1 contract with Deep Space Industries will create specifications for:
- the cubesat
- the ground station uplink design
- satellite receiver design
There will be multiple independent operators running hardened ground station uplink nodes.
Catherine: What would it take for an individual to receive on their own? (Cost, etc..) Jeff: The satellite network is free-to-use. You must purchase or build your own receiver, based on an open source design.
The design specification says the receiver must be “less than $10,000, and buildable by a smart hobbyist” but we hope to get the price down much closer to $100.
Catherine: Are you raising funds for this effort? Jeff: Yes. Currently asking for small donations to:
After Deep Space Industries completes the design contract in August 2014, major fundraising will commence. The design will be posted for public review. The people must be able to evaluate the design, understand it, before donating. The fundraising will likely be kickstarter-like, but bitcoin-only.
Catherine: Long term, could this replace the internet as we know it? Jeff: No. Space is slow. Terrestrial land lines will always be faster, until the laws of physics change.
Catherine: What are the big picture implications of sending the blockchain into space? Jeff: For bitcoin, it provides a useful backup and potentially brings new bitcoin users online.
For Dunvegan Space and the spaceflight industry, it is one tiny step towards creating a system where there are daily rocket launches to space, and cubesats can be purchased and launched for under $1,000.
Catherine: What’s the next step? Jeff: Watch for BitSat Update #2, which will answer that question, to be published today or tomorrow.
Catherine: Is there a press release? Jeff: Yes: http://www.prlog.org/12313639-bitcoins-in-space-one-step-closer.html
Jeff Garzik Bio: Jeff Garzik is a software engineer, blogger, futurist and entrepreneur. After helping to inaugurate CNN.com on the Internet in the early 1990s, Jeff worked at a succession of Internet startups and service providers, all the while, working on open source software engineering projects for over two decades. Involvement in one of the best known open source projects, the Linux kernel, led to an extended tenure at Linux leader Red Hat, during open source’s most formative years.
In July 2010, while reading slashdot.org, Jeff stumbled across a post describing bitcoin. Immediately recognizing the potential of a concept previously thought impossible — decentralized digital money — Jeff did what came naturally: developed bitcoin open source software, and started micro-businesses with bitcoin at their foundation. Almost by accident, Jeff found himself square in the middle of the global, disruptive, amazing hurricane of a technological phenomenon known as bitcoin.
Jeff now works as a bitcoin core developer and open source evangelist at BitPay. Jeff is also the CEO of Dunvegan Space Systems and Sleepy Dragon Properties, both one-man micro-businesses. Dunvegan Space Systems is the manager of the BitSat project.