“XYO” — began a press release sent on Tuesday — “is going to [sic] into Orbit on SpaceX.”
XYO, for the uninitiated, is the company run by the guy who put his cat on the blockchain. It builds bluetooth Internet-of-Things-enabled dongles that transmit location data to deliverymen. It raised $12 million in a token sale in May, each of which now costs about $0.05 a pop. Now it’s going to space.
It says it’s partnered with “Spaceflight,” a real (!) Seattle-based company that ferries satellites into orbit. (We emailed Spaceflight for confirmation and will update when we get a response.) Using Spaceflight’s services, XYO hopes to launch a “custom satellite”—dubbed EtherX, after founder and cat-disintermediator Scott Scheper’s love of Ethereum—into orbit via a SpaceX Falcon 9 aircraft. The launch will take place sometime in 2019.
(When pressed on the cost of XYO’s interstellar maiden voyage, XYO wouldn’t disclose any details. But generally, a small satellite launch can set you back anywhere between $10 and $400 million. And since XYO’s market cap sits around $26 million, we’re betting it’s one of the cheaper launches, where the satellites are made of balsa wood and held together with chewing gum.)
But why go into space at all? Well, as it stands, XYO presides over a large network, or mesh, of terrestrial radio operators, which act sort of like earthbound GPS satellites. (A bit like FOAM.) They ping signals to each other, and stake money on pinpointing the correct locations of people — or cats — who use the network. Because it’s fairly new, these operators are concentrated in cities. Therein lies the rub.
“Any user within the mesh network can participate, yet the challenges remain,” says XYO. “What happens if a user is in a small town or remote location, miles from a network? How can we link these numerous, self-contained, geographically dispersed mesh networks? How can a person with a sentinel [a bluetooth dongle] in Tennessee communicate with a person with a geomining kit in France?”
“The answer to all of these questions lie in satellites and space.”
XYO thinks that by blasting a portion of the mesh into orbit, it will vastly increase the mesh’s range and, moreover, “deliver a layer of un-spoofable location certainty which GPS can never match.” This will work, claims XYO, because each of XYO’s backers—called “Geohackers”—can buy a stake in the performance of each satellite, meaning the profit, and responsibility, is spread all around, and secured cryptographically. The company eventually hopes to launch a “fleet” of such satellites, “named after important cryptographers and individuals who inspired them.” XYO also hopes that this “literal moonshot” will generate “global coverage.”
Don’t believe it? Look at this mad quote from Scheper, the founder and guy who put his cat on the blockchain:
“Every wildly successful company in history comes to the point where they can play it safe, or think bigger. Those who are part of our movement already know how we do things. We’re the crazy ones. We’re not just going to launch to the figurative moon, we’re going to the literal one. Screw it, let’s do it.”
From what we’ve seen, it’s the first time a blockchain will go interstellar, though others, like the ConsenSys-affiliated Planetary Resources, are surely mulling it. This is indeed big news for the crypto space.