Space Decentral: The DAO for Space Exploration

Bowen Sanders
May 8, 2018 · 7 min read

Yalda Mousavinia and the rest of the Social Coding Team are members of the Giveth Galaxy who manage, create, and contribute to projects that are beneficial but aren’t in themselves a source of revenue. The Planning App that just won an Aragon Nest grant, is one of the exciting projects Space Decentral and the Giveth Social Coding Circle are currently working on.

If SpaceX has taught us anything, it’s that we live in a world that no longer needs to rely solely on governmental space agencies to explore the final frontier. They raised $218 Million USD this past quarter, and are currently doing a Series I funding round. Privatized space efforts have started to fill in the gaps and may cut costs for NASA, whose funding has been repeatedly cut. Since its peak of funding in 1966, when it counted for 4.41 percent of the national budget, the space agency has seen a sharp decline in federal support, receiving only 0.47 percent in 2017.

But in the spirit of decentralization, many celestial engineers are looking to take matters into their own hands, relying on community networks to carry space exploration into the future, unfettered by any one entity’s agenda.

This is the idea that drives the Space Decentral DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), the motto of which is “To Space, Together.” The team’s goal is to connect “engineers, scientists, and future astronauts to devise and fund next-generation space initiatives” with the help of token-based crowdfunding and open-sourced operations.

On March 10, 2018, at the Ethereum Community Conference held in Paris, Space Decentral co-founder Yalda Mousavinia explained her vision of the DAO:

“It’s decentralized because a single corporation or nation will not be responsible for its management. It’s autonomous because there will be member control over how work is directed, how decisions are made, and which projects to fund. And it’s a space agency because the purpose is to strategically develop a space plan, so we can act with meaningful impact … It’s about really creating a roadmap that will be citizen-led.”

The project is not yet on the blockchain while in its current developmental stages, but is presently serving as a social network aimed at connecting suggested missions with interested collaborators, and building a general community.

Decisions regarding project funding and work allocation will be managed with help from Aragon Core, a DApp that facilitates organizations to transparently allocate tokenized voting power.

Space Decentral’s voting system will involve a combination of two tokens.

According to the DAO’s whitepaper:

  • The Faster Than Light (FTL) token “represents financial contributions” and can be purchased via an initial coin offering (ICO). These are used for “range voting” and accumulate more weight for decision making the longer they are held (for up to five years), in order to deter interference from actors who might not have the organization’s best interests at heart.
  • The Space Decentral Network (SDN) token is “earned by contributing to strategic plans, open source projects, and the open knowledge base.” Acquisition is dependent on peer review.

Space Decentral will also utilize one of Aragon’s core pieces, the aragonOS framework, and more specifically its Access Control List (ACL), which Mousavinia believes is integral to building transparency in operations. This ACL will be used to escalate “the different roles in the organization and what authorizations and permissions that people have for … using different features in the application, the different types of votes [participants] want to do, what upgrades may occur.”

Mousavinia made it clear that the ACL isn’t meant to establish a traditional corporate hierarchy, but to ensure that the more qualified people are working on the missions that they are most respectively qualified for. After all, as the co-founder said, “Someone that’s an expert on Mars might not necessarily be an expert on the Moon.”

Mousavinia was pivotal in assembling the Space Cooperative team in 2016, which eventually lead toward establishing Space Decentral. Space Cooperative’s mission was always to crowdsource and crowdfund space missions, but it wasn’t until she spoke to a friend who worked at a cryptocurrency exchange and read an article about Space DAOs that she was inspired to incorporate the blockchain and smart contracts into the project.

In an exclusive interview, Mousavinia explained the backstory:

I saw Vitalik speak at a meetup in early 2015 and also invested in Ethereum in the summer of 2016 shortly after The DAO hack. This investment is what has actually enabled me to pay my bills while putting full-time energy into Space Decentral for over the past 12 months. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Ethereum, I am not sure where I would be in life today.

In April of 2017, 6 months after founding Space Cooperative, a friend that works for the Kraken cryptocurrency exchange, who I actually met at that same meetup where Vitalik spoke, convinced me that the blockchain was perfect for our project. During this conversation, I remembered that a few weeks prior I had read an article by the futurist Giulio Prisco “A Decentralized Autonomous Space Agency” and took it as a sign to reach out to him.

Because their visions for the future of space exploration were so strikingly aligned, Mousavinia and Prisco joined forces with a number of other co-founders to become the “initial stewards of Space Decentral.” Space Cooperative continues to exist, and can be considered one of the initial “nodes” of Space Decentral. They designed Space Decentral in such a way that other entities can feel at an equal level to Space Cooperative, hence in this case, Space Decentral is the umbrella organization.

Before long, the space-centric engineer began looking to other DAOs in the Ethereum space upon which to model the project. She came across Giveth and was welcomed into the Riot and Slack channels, where she was free to ask many questions, receiving feedback and support from the Decentralized Altruistic Community (DAC). She promptly became a regular fixture in the Social Coding Circle.

In an exclusive interview, Mousavinia explained what she found appealing about the DAC:

“I really identified with the material I read on Giveth’s website and it seemed like maybe this was the community that I’ve been trying to search for on the internet — people that are in this to really change the world, where you can just hop into the chat room and start working together without asking for permission. You can even become part of the governance process quite quickly … ”

Mousavinia began working on other projects connected to Giveth, such as BrightID, which is a decentralized program for combatting bots by verifying that each voter is unique without identifying the individuals. She believes that this DApp might also be useful for Space Decentral. In her words, “If we have the same goals … to better humanity… how can we combine forces to do it more quickly? To create these network effects around building the future together.”

Near the same time that Yalda joined Giveth’s Social Coding circle, Aragon had also announced Nest, a program that grants funding to projects that benefit the Aragon or Ethereum ecosystems. Yalda was taking the lead in writing a proposal for Nest, based on an idea that won a small prize from Aragon at the EthDenver hackathon. Quazia, Giveth’s Social Coding lead, heard about the hackathon project and approached Yalda to collaborate on the Nest application, as he had complementary ideas. The result of this was a proposal for an Aragon Planning app, which is the recipient of a $150,000 grant.

“Something like the Aragon Planning app is a beautiful example of what can happen when you realize we can accomplish our shared goals faster if we just collaborate. The app is being designed and developed by both Space Decentral and Giveth, and funded by Aragon. This type of decentralization melts my heart and gives me hope about the upcoming DAO world.”

Ultimately, she said, one ethos of Space Decentral is to be “more open and strategic about our collaboration tool kit,” recognizing that many features that Space Decentral needs, other decentralized communities will need too. She described building different tools for different problems, tracking whom to credit while catering to as wide a variety of users as possible, accounting for all ages and all levels of ability or special needs. With collaboration, she wants to “build a system that can really support a city or a large company or a new society.”

Whether it’s bettering our home here on Earth or launching expeditions to better understand our universe, decentralized efforts will likely play a large role in furthering our explorations.

More on Space Decentral:

More on Giveth:


Open-Source Platform for Building Decentralized Altruistic…

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