Transferring Files via the BlockStream Satellite with Lightning Network Payments and RTL-SDR + Transacting Bitcoin over HF

The Blockstream satellite API is now live on the main Bitcoin network. Blockstream satellite is a project that aims to use geosynchronous satellites to strengthen the Bitcoin network by continuously broadcasting the Bitcoin blockchain all over the world. This allows people without internet access (or with censored internet) to receive Bitcoin. Setting up a Blockstream satellite receive station is a matter of building an RTL-SDR based receiver (or other GNU Radio compatible SDR) with a small satellite dish and LNB.

The API was also updated and this has enabled a feature that allows you to upload a file of up to 10 kB via the internet, which will then be transmitted via the satellites to anyone who is running a Blockstream RTL-SDR satellite receiver. Payment for the transmission is taken via the Bitcoin Lightning Network and transmissions appear to work on a priority basis, with larger payments receiving higher priority. The file is distributed to all receivers, so they note that private messages would need to be encrypted with public keys distributed to recipients in other ways. This service is similar to what the Othernet (prev. Outernet) network offered in the past with the ability to transmit data, tweets and APRS messages over their satellite network. We think that cheap small data satellite transmissions could have some interesting applications in remote control.

In related news on CryptoNewsZ it has been reported that a bitcoin lightning network transaction was completed over the 20M amateur radio band. The transaction was completed with the JS8 digital mode, which is similar to FT8 but designed for weak signal usage. The message was sent via the help of twitter, with @eiaine first sending money to @nvk via the internet. @nvk then sent the Lightning Network invoice over 21 JS8 messages via the 20M band to @eiaine who received it, thus confirming that the transaction was completed.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bob Vee

I too, am not a lawyer. It seems that the “invoice” is part of the bitcoin transfer that is, it does not mean anything was sold. As I read this, the various participants were involved in a radio communications research whereby bitcoin was transferred as part of the research. This is far different than sending an invoice for the price of a widget (unrelated to ham radio) from a company to an individual or another company. Radio experimentation is a legitimate practice that should be encouraged. Given the various bad behavior that can readily be found on the ham bands, I think it unwise to suggest that experimentation of this type should be discouraged.

Jake Brodsky, AB3A

It is very likely that the transaction, if it happened, violates 47CFR97.113(2).

There are exceptions to this rule in subsection (4), but none of those would appear to apply to this scenario. That’s my take on this, but I am not a lawyer.


Sending messages of a commercial nature (ie an invoice as in the article above) across amateur radio frequencies, is, plain and simple, illegal.


Well, there is one exception – the sale of amateur radio related equipment. But I agree, this transaction is likely to have broken some laws….


Oops, I should have included “private party” – I would agree that selling ham equipment as a commercial venture isn’t legit…. But the article doesn’t seem to mention the nature of the transaction.

Maithreepala Sirisena

Telstar owns those bands right? So, they can take our money and transmit whatever they want. Is that wrong?

Maithreepala Sirisena

Hi, despite this article infers that transferring files is possible, no where in any of the links indicate clearly how it can be done. It talks about sending bitcoin payments but not files. Do you want to adjust the title? However, at the same time, thank you a lot for bringing this news to us in time. Although there is some figuring out to do, this is great news.