Bitcoin is a digital currency based on blockchain technology, and Blockstream are a large innovator in the Bitcoin world. They have recently been developing the ‘lightning network’ which is a layer that sits on top of the blockchain. The goal of the lightning network is to provide a second layer that helps to speed up bitcoin transactions and alleviate network congestion.
In a previous post we noted that Blockstream have data channels leased on several geostationary satellites. The goal of these satellites is to help users download the blockchain, which is the ledger of all bitcoin transactions ever made. Over time the ledger grows and becomes larger and larger, and at the time of writing is currently about 200 GB in size. Rural/field users of Bitcoin with slow, intermittent, or no internet connection can use this satellite to download or update their ledger and confirm that they have received payments.
To receive the satellite an RTL-SDR dongle together with a Linux PC, LNB and satellite dish antenna are used. More information about setting up a receiver can be found on their GitHub.
Recently Blockstream have released news that their satellites now support Lightning transactions. In addition the Asia-Pacific satellite is now online. This should help boost adoption of the lightning network among rural users.