New Internet for Space, New Technologies to Test
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We have an Internet here on Earth, but how will we communicate in space? NASA's old network is just that: old, with everything that implies. Fortunately, its replacement is already being tested, and it can do a few things our own earthbound and earth-orbiting Internet can't. Get ready for Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN), coming to a satellite near you!
Honestly, in times past, I did wonder whatever happened to NASA.
I mean, I was sure they were still out there, spending their budgets on whatever they’ve decided is the most pressing outer-space issue at the moment, but have they really done anything monumental over the last decade? Other than vaguely responding to questions wondering if we even really did go to the moon, and more specifically, why we can’t seem to figure out the math to get back, if in fact we even wanted to?
Now, I’m definitely not a scientist, and I have the predisposition to not pay attention to things I find purposely clouded, conspiracy-governed or even politically-oriented, but when pop culture keeps repeating these same issues, I’m inclined to wonder about it a bit, I can say that.
So in a decade of pretty low expectations, poor PR practices and minimal advancements that a normal person could actually understand and appreciate, NASA has apparently been working with Google vice president Vint Cerf, in regard to updating our out-of-date 1970s radio communications system used in deep space. Current deep space radio communications are clumsy and require a team on the ground to manually direct each and every packet from point to point. With the advent of new technology, one primary concern was to alleviate the manual approach to the sending and receiving of faraway data.
Go figure. Well, you knew they had to be doing something!
Combined with vast support, experience and technology advances from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), this updating of communication is geared toward addressing technical issues in heterogeneous networks that lack continuous network connectivity, such as those operating in mobile or extreme land environments, as well as planned networks in space.
This testing of Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN) was the first in a series of planned demonstrations to actively work towards a solution posed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 1996, where it was stated that the Deep Space Network (DSN) communicating with spacecraft beyond low Earth orbit was not well positioned to meet the demands for future space missions. The DSN then was viewed as a “deteriorating infrastructure” whose limited capacity to serve multiple missions would result in loss of scientific data which would be difficult if not impossible to replace.
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