NASA Launches Solar System Internet Technology On International Space Station
American space agency NASA took a significant step forward to create a Solar System Internet by setting up an operational Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) service on the International Space Station (ISS). The DTN technology will help in establishing a more effective bandwidth utilization and data return by improving and automating data availability on the space station.
— NASA (@NASA) June 21, 2016
According to NASA, "DTN works by offering an automatic and reliable store and forward data network that stores partial bundles of data in nodes along a communication path until the components can be forwarded or retransmitted, then re-bundled at the final destination, either to ground stations on Earth, robotic spacecraft in deep space, or, one day, humans living on other planets". Incidentally, traditional Internet Protocols require the availability of each node in the transmission path at the same time frame to conduct data transmission successfully.
The DTN was added to the space station's Telescience Resource Kit (TReK), a software suite that helps the researchers in receiving and transmitting data between the centers of operations and their payload missions aboard the ISS. The DTN service will also be helpful for enhancing applications for mission support, which would include transfers of operational files.
The use of the DTN service for the first time as an operational capability during a space mission heralds the start of the ISS as a node in the continuous evolution of the Solar System Internet. Apart from its uses and benefits in space, the service is also advantageous for disaster prone areas or environments where communications is unreliable.
NASA worked closely with Dr Vinton G Cerf, Google's Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist to develop DTN. NASA has taken more than a decade to generate the networking service and it has made sure that the technology is standardized all over the world, by working with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS) and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF). In addition, numerous DTN implementations are available publicly as open source code, implying that ISS payload developers, commercial networking developers and university researchers have access to it.