PayPal eyes opportunities in outer space

The payments processor is looking at opportunities in an age of space tourism

PayPal, which claims more than 128 million active accounts in 193 markets and 25 currencies around the globe, is now looking at outer space.

As space tourism is expected to take off, PayPal is exploring what payment systems will be like in outer space.

The payments processor is launching Thursday with the SETI Institute and others an initiative called PayPal Galactic, which will bring together leaders in the space industry to discuss the issues surrounding the commercialization of space.

The need for a payment system beyond earth already exists, the payments processor said in a blog post on Wednesday. Astronauts on space stations need, for example, to pay for bills back on earth and for entertainment, like music and e-books, while in space, it added.

"Creating a secure and functional commerce system that can operate in space at scale will not be easy, 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," PayPal wrote in the blog post.

The eBay unit admits that it is just at the beginning.

Some of the issues to be addressed by PayPal Galactic in tandem with scientists and researchers are how will standard currency look like in a "truly cash-free interplanetary society," how will banking systems have to adapt, how customer support needs to develop, regulations in the new environment, and developing risk and fraud management systems.

The initiative brings together scientists and space industry leaders from SETI in Mountain View, California and Space Tourism Society in Los Angeles, and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

A number of companies have been set up to offer space tourism. Virgin Galactic, for example, said in May that it is on track to be the world's first "commercial spaceline." Some companies plan to set up space hotels, according to reports.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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