PayPal gets ready to commercialise space with ‘Galactic’ programme


Space is no longer the preserve of state-funded agencies, people like Richard Branson and Elon Musk are making sure of that. And in a bid to get a head start on the inevitable commercialisation of space, PayPal has launched an intergalactic payments service.

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In unveiling the new service, the company says it is “expanding our vision off Earth into space”. The service will allow people outside of Earth (right now, a few astronauts on the International Space Station) to pay for everything from their bills to digital content. As PayPal notes, even “as we start planning to inhabit other planets, the practical realities of life still need to be addressed”.

The payments company, which counts Space X CEO Elon Musk as one of its founders, says it’s still not precisely clear how the service will work:

“Specific details still need to be addressed, and we look forward to keeping you updated with our progress and to the day when we are truly able to make space a commercial reality,” it said in the announcement.

There is a more grounded side to the announcement though, and will see PayPal partner with the likes of SETI Institute, the Space Tourism Society and famous astronaut Buzz Aldrin to discuss what the potential issues around interplanetary travel and payments could be.

Among the topics it says need to be addressed are:

  • What will our standard currency look like in a truly cash-free interplanetary society?
  • How will the banking systems have to adapt?
  • How will risk and fraud management systems need to evolve?
  • What regulations will we have to conform with?
  • How will our customer support need to develop?

“Creating a secure and functional commerce system that can operate in space at scale will not be easy,” the company says, “but with the support of the scientific community, other technology companies and the public at large, we hope to find the solutions to address these challenges”.

While PayPal faces increasingly stiff competition from the likes of Square in a field it once dominated, it’s always done well when it gets into new sectors ahead of the curve. Its claim that its systems “are built to be scalable — out into the solar system and beyond,” therefore doesn’t seem so absurd. Oh, and there’s also the fact that being the first company to offer inter-galactic payments is bound to give it some serious cred because well, space is cool okay?

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