During the second day of the The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 17, The Filecoin Foundation announced that the first space mission relying on decentralized data transfer is planned for this year. The spacecraft to carry the IPFS payload is the LM 400 Technology Demonstrator spacecraft built by Lockheed Martin.
The mission is intended to demonstrate the capabilities of the Interplanetary File System (IPFS) protocol, which can effectively increase the speed of information exchange over long distances. The initial plan for the collaboration between Lockheed Martin, a global company specializing in advanced technologies, spacecraft, security and defense, and the Filecoin Foundation, an independent organization that manages the Filecoin decentralized storage system, was announced in May 2022.
Initially, the Filecoin Foundation and Lockheed Martin focused on selecting a platform based on its compatibility with the IPFS payload. As a result of their extensive research, the LM 400 Technology Demonstrator spacecraft was chosen for the mission. The companies plan to launch the mission later this year.
Joe Landon, the Lockheed Martin vice president who also holds the role of the general manager of the company's Lunar Infrastructure Services, noted:
"The LM 400 Tech Demonstrator mission will showcase how IPFS can make larger quantities of data from space available to multiple ground-based applications in simpler ways. It will serve as the foundational infrastructure to enable more efficient interplanetary communication for our collective, long-term presence in Earth orbit, at the Moon, and beyond."
How can IPFS transform space-ground communication?
The IPFS protocol is designed for the peer-to-peer transmission of information. Unlike traditional centralized networks, this distributed file system is content-addressable. It gives each file its own content address, which is essentially a unique cryptographic cash. Instead of using a storage address for data transfer, the content is used for identification and data retrieval. At the same time, the system relies on a decentralized network of computers instead of a single server.
These features can significantly speed up space communication and increase its stability. The president of the Filecoin Foundation, Marta Belcher, explained the importance of the IPFS protocol for the development of the space economy:
“From the beginning, IPFS was envisioned as a technology that can make interplanetary networking possible; the ‘I’ in IPFS stands for ‘interplanetary. Today’s centralized Internet model doesn’t work in space. On today’s Internet, every time you click something, that data has to be retrieved from a centralized server; if you’re on the Moon, there will be a multi-second delay with every click, as content is retrieved from Earth.
Using IPFS, data does not need to go back and forth from Earth with every click; instead, when you put in an IPFS ‘content ID,’ that content is retrieved from wherever is closest, rather than being retrieved from a particular server in a particular place. That means if someone else nearby on the Moon has already retrieved that data, the data only has to travel a short distance and can get to you quickly instead of traveling back and forth from Earth with every click.”
Filecoin and IPFS-based data storage
The IPFS protocol is the underlying technology of the Filecoin decentralized storage network allowing users to earn the Filecoin (FIL) cryptocurrency for renting their unused storage. Users who purchase storage also pay in FIL. Some investors believe in the great potential of this cryptocurrency because of the notable impact of The Filecoin Foundation on the development of data storage and transfer technology.
Still, the Filecoin price has not shown any significant increase after the announcement of the Foundation's plan. Its last considerable rise was noted on January 14, 2023, when the price skyrocketed from $4.019 t $4.809 within a single day. On January 17, when the news came in, the price was $4.629. However, instead of a growing trend traders may have expected, the price dropped to $4.258 the next day. At the press time, FIL is trading at $4.386.
Not all decentralized storage systems use IPFS, but many see great potential in this technology. For example, Storj, one of the leaders on the market of decentralized storage services, relies on Tardigrade, a distributed file system and a distributed hash table. However, the company has been offering services based on the IPFS pinning technology for NFT storage since the previous year.