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NASA tests 'interplanetary Internet'

Nov. 9, 2012 at 5:55 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- NASA and the European Space Agency say they have tested an "interplanetary" communication network replicating some of the functions of the Internet.

As part of the experiment, the crew of the International Space Station Expedition used a NASA-developed laptop to operate a small LEGO robot at the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany.

"The demonstration showed the feasibility of using a new communications infrastructure to send commands to a surface robot from an orbiting spacecraft and receive images and data back from the robot," said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The experiment was a test of a Disruption Tolerant Networking protocol that allows standardized communications similar to the Internet technology.

Unlike the TCP/IP protocol used for worldwide Internet connections, DTN was designed to deal with disconnections, errors and delays of signal that would be experienced during interplanetary communication, NASA said in a release Friday.

"In DTN, data move through the network 'hop-by-hop.' While waiting for the next link to become connected, bundles are temporarily stored and then forwarded to the next node when the link becomes available," NASA said.

Eventually the DTN system could eventually become the prime method of communicating with deep space missions as well as a way to control unmanned missions from long distances, the space agency said.

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