New NASA network poised to bring internet to entire solar system
NASA has made significant progress toward establishing a more reliable, and potentially solar-system-spanning communication system with the installation of a new breed of data network aboard the International Space Station (ISS). As its name suggests, the Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) service allows for the storage of partial pieces of information in the nodes along a communication path, which will allow for faster and more stable transmissions.
The system has been integrated with the ISS's Telescience Resource Kit and representsover 10 years of work from NASA and its partners as part of theagency's Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) program. AES seeks todevelop technologies thatcould be instrumental in the future exploration of our solar system.
The more traditional internet protocol system previously used by astronauts aboard thestation required each node of a network to be available at the sametime in order for data to be transferred. For astronautscommunicating from the ISS, these nodes are often satellites, which can be unavailable for any number of reasons, leading to significant disruptions in communications.
The DTN's ability to store and send partial bundles of information as and when a node becomes available has the potential to significantly reduce communication latency, allowing for a greater level of data availability and superior bandwidth utilization, as seen in this video.
The automatic "storeand forward" networking service could also provide areliable communications option for deep space exploration missions,as well as for pioneers taking part in NASA's ambitious mannedmission to Mars. The partial data transmissions can be reassembled at "ground stations on Earth, robotic spacecraft in deep space, or, one day, humans living on other planets," says a NASA press release about the advance.
Furthermore, whilst DTNis being tested in orbit, the provision of a more reliable datadistribution system will have a number of applications back on Earth.For example, the technology could allow for stable mobile communication capabilities in the wake of a natural disasters, wherea lack of coordination between rescue forces could lead to further lossof life.