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Nasa Tests 'space Internet' Protocols on International Space Station

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CU-Boulder space payload operators

Operators with The University of Colorado at Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department receive data packets from the International Space Station as part of tests beginning this week to extend the Internet to outer space.

Glenn Asakawa / University of Colorado

The University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder) is collaborating with NASA on the development of a new Interplanetary Internet currently undergoing testing on the International Space Station. Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) technology is designed to extend the terrestrial Internet into outer space and the solar system so that NASA and other space agencies around the world can better communicate with international spacecraft fleets that will be used for lunar and Martian exploration.

"Highly automated future communications capabilities will be required for lunar habitation and surface exploration that include passing information between orbiting relay satellites, lunar and planetary habitats, and astronauts on the surface," says Kevin Gifford with CU-Boulder's BioServe Space Technologies. "But existing Internet protocols, where Internet hosts and computers are always connected, do not work well for many space-based environments, where intermittently connected operations are common." NASA's Adrian Hooke says the new system eliminates the problem of delays caused by spacecraft moving behind planets or solar storm disruptions because data packages, rather than being jettisoned, are stored as long as needed until an opportunity to transmit them comes up.

"By improving data timeliness associated with robotic and human-tended missions, NASA is reducing risk, reducing cost, increasing crew safety, improving operational awareness, and improving science return," Gifford says. "There also are intriguing applications of the DTN technology on Earth. They include the tracking of livestock and wildlife, enhancing Internet 'hot spot' connectivity in remote rural areas in Third World countries, and tactical operations support for the U.S. military."

From The University of Colorado at Boulder News Center
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