The interplanetary network

With SpaceX driving humanity forward to become a multi-planet species, a number of technical challenges and gaps present themselves when it comes to long-range communication and deployment of services. Will Unigrid be able fill these gaps?

The interplanetary network

We are currently looking with excitement at SpaceX as they work on their new rocket stack called Starship. In order to achieve their mission of making humanity a multi-planet species, Starship is poised to become the first truly and fully reusable rocket solution ever created. Not only is it the the first stage completely reusable (similar to the current Falcon 9 rockets), but the second upper stage is supposed to be completely reusable as well. If SpaceX succeed, it will be a first for humanity - lowering the cost of mass to orbit by several factors. The development has the potential of opening up the solar system for affordable manned exploration of the solar system once and for all.

After a successful testing regime of the upper stage earlier this year, SpaceX are now scheduling an orbital test of the full stack (with both stages) very soon. With the next test scheduled for August, the activity at Starbase (the SpaceX South Texas launch site) is increasing rapidly on a daily basis.

In May 2021, SpaceX successfully tested the takeoff and landing procedure of the Starship upper stage.

If you have not been following SpaceX and their recent work on Starship, there are some excellent resources on the Internet, with Felix Schlangs YouTube channel (called What about it?) and the recent interview with Elon Musk by Tim Dodd (The Everyday Astronaut) being some of the best.

Elon Musk shows Tim Dodd around the Starbase facility and talks about the difficulties and challenges of the Starship design and production. This video is the first part of three.

You might wonder - how does decentralization and Unigrid come into the picture when talking about SpaceX and Starship? This is where things become interesting. The short answer - blockchain technology and the self-adjusting nature of the Unigrid network can potentially be used to create a network and deploy data and services Β that span the solar system, allowing services to readjust and replicate between different distant locations. While this was not a planned feature of the network originally, this ability became clear to us as we were working on the white paper for the network.

Imagine a Unigrid network deployed with gridnodes running on both Earth and on Mars. Because the network is fault-tolerant, readjusting and redundant in it's design, it can work over a network with sections being out of sync with each other. In fact, in order to handle long outages and network splits of sections of the network, this is an inherent part of the design of the network.

Future networks that communicate and deploy data and services throughout the solar system face many unique challenges that we currently don't have to take into consideration.

Similar to how nodes become inaccessible during an outage, a radio signal sent to Mars can take anywhere from three to 22Β½ minutes to arrive at its destination, depending on the alignment of the planets. This means, that in a worst case scenario, the roundabout time (the time to send a signal and get an answer back) is 45 minutes. So while we can certainly handle the replication of services and data between remote locations, real-time communication is infeasible and will stay that way unless there is some way for FTL (Faster-Than-Light) communication that we are yet to figure out. For now though, we just have to accept that we have to handle the long time lag.

The fact that Unigrid runs on many blockchains and has fault-tolerance and redundancy built into the network, allows the network to keep separately synced copies in different locations.

Most traditional blockchain projects will not be able to handle this duality. For example, a Bitcoin network running on both Mars and Earth would have the blocks from Earth winning out most of the time simply because of the fact that most miners would be on the Earth. Having different memory pools completely out of sync in two separate locations also presents a problem, as completely different blocks would be generated at both locations - with the blocks coming from Mars having very little chance of winning. In the end, Mars nodes would be able to commit transactions to the memory pool, but they would have very little chance to take part in the immediate consensus process of blocks.

Running Bitcoin in multiple distant locations in the solar system presents some unique challenges that will need to be solved if we want to be able to efficiently transfer funds between planets. 

One solution to solving this problem with Bitcoin would be to keep separate Bitcoin chains running on Mars and Earth with some kind of consensus mechanism in between employed that allows the movement of transactions from one chain to the other. Consequently, that's also how Unigrid is designed to work when keeping and handling multiple transaction chains.

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Learn about the Unigrid Network, its history, what makes it special and how developing it under a Swedish foundation will safeguard its future.

The problem is non-trivial and requires a lot of considerations to solve. To gain further knowledge and better understanding of how Unigrid tries to address this, please refer to the white paper on our website.

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