PayPal To Take Its Payment Platform To Space

PayPal Galactic initiative will look at the challenges facing the electronic payment industry in Earth’s orbit and beyond

In an unusual (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) announcements, PayPal has announced plans to become the first inter-planetary payment platform. PayPal Galactic, launched on Thursday,  is a research project which aims to test the viability of electronic payments in space, and tackle technical challenges associated with long-distance wireless connectivity.

With space tourism on the launchpad and private projects like Space X taking over the roles previously reserved for government organisations, PayPal seems to think that space money is the next big thing. “PayPal is the favourite way to pay on Earth, and we want to make sure it is the favourite way to pay in space,” said David Marcus, president of PayPal.

The launch was attended by Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step on the moon, as well as experts from the SETI Institute and Space Tourism Society (pictured with Marcus).

Galactic credits

David Marcus and Buzz Aldrin
David Marcus and Buzz Aldrin

“Space travel is opening up for “the rest of us” thanks to Virgin Galactic, Space X and a host of other space tourism programs including the Space Hotel that hopes to be in orbit by 2016. The enabling infrastructure pieces are starting to come together, and as we start planning to inhabit other planets, the practical realities of life still need to be addressed,” wrote Marcus on the PayPal blog.

The company clearly thinks that these practical realities include a payment method suitable for the vacuum of space. So it has partnered with the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute to launch PayPal Galactic.

The project will look at certain aspects of the commercialisation of space, such as cash-free transactions, interplanetary banking, security, fraud prevention and customer service hundreds of miles away from the planet.

PayPal says that the need for an off-world payment system already exists: for example, the astronauts working on the International Space Station need to pay their bills back on Earth.

“Our robust and proven systems that help us to transact safely and securely in 25 currencies across multiple banking systems, are built to be scalable – out into the solar system and beyond,” wrote Marcus.

It is worth noting that Space X, the first private company to successfully launch a rocket into space (which now makes regular supply runs to the International Space Station), was founded by Elon Musk, one of the co-founders of PayPal.

Despite the company’s ambitious claims, electronic payment processing in space presents few issues – a much more serious challenge is maintaining a decent Internet connection while in orbit, something the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems has been doing for the last 30 years.

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