Space is a cold, largely empty void, but at least we'll be able to conduct business there. That, at least, is the promise of PayPal Galactic, a new initiative launched today by eBay's (NASDAQ: EBAY) well-known electronic payments subsidiary. The mission of the unit is to create a secure and useful system of payments that can function outside of our planet.

Unveiling the service in an official blog post, PayPal President David Marcus pointed out that even now, "the need for a payment system off Earth exists." He cited the example of astronauts on space stations having to pay for goods such as music and e-books, as well as bills for their services on Earth, while on duty.

In order to help address the many logistical and technical questions raised by such an ambition, PayPal Galactic is teaming with the SETI Institute for its initiative.

While admitting the considerable challenges of the effort, Marcus sounded an optimistic note for its future in his blog post.

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

Fool contributor Eric Volkman has no position in eBay. The Motley Fool recommends eBay. The Motley Fool owns shares of eBay. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.