NASA Exploring Blockchain Technology for Better Developments

NASA has joined the blockchain hype. A recently published document has revealed the intention of the U.S. Aeronautical Program to use blockchain technologies as tools to develop a more efficient alternative to the current RADAR system.

The document entitled “Air Traffic Management Blockchain Infrastructure for Security, Authentication, and Privacy” explains that NASA plans to adopt Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) in 2020m however; currently, there are particular vulnerabilities that if exploited could allow current systems to be subject to spoofing, DDoS and other similar attacks.

To counter this risk, they propose to use DLTs as mechanisms for identity protection and process optimization:

“This paper presents an engineering prototype that embodies a design and method that may be applied to mitigate these ADS-B security issues. The design innovation is the use of an open source permissioned blockchain framework to enable aircraft privacy and anonymity while providing a secure and efficient method for communication with Air Traffic Services, Operations Support, or other authorized entities. This framework features certificate authority, smart contract support, and higher-bandwidth communication channels for private information that may be used for secure communication between any specific aircraft and any particular authorized member, sharing data in accordance with the terms specified in the form of smart contracts.”

If implemented, the blockchain proposed by NASA would allow a secure and frictionless exchange of information between air and ground-based services.

credit: NASA

NASA + Hyperledger: A Good Team

To develop the project, NASA is using the open source blockchain platform known as “Hyperledger Fabric.” A work of the Linux Foundation focused on the creation of tools for private blockchains. Currently, Hyperledger is the framework used by IBM to develop its blockchain projects.

The NASA notes that developments on the Hyperledger platform will allow the encrypted transmission of information between different parties in a way that can be better than any other modern standard:

“The Hyperledger Fabric platform provides for a standardized PKI infrastructure that may provide identity management for aircraft operators who will acquire a PKI-supplied synchronous cypher (“key”). The key will enable transmission of ADS-B data to Air Traffic, other selected services, and nearby aircraft in an encrypted format (“cyphertext”). The ADS-B data will be received and authenticated by participants who share knowledge of the key. The privacy of the aircraft, or ADS-B data, is maintained by the encryption of the beacon messages”

There is no specific date for the project execution and it is not yet known if NASA will opt to implement this solution, however, the possibilities are favorable given the innovative stance of the agency in similar occasions.

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