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NASA reveals solar system Internet for interplanetary communication

A data transfer system expected to be more reliable is seen as one of the first steps to creating an interplanetary Internet.

By Stephen Feller
NASA reveals solar system Internet for interplanetary communication
NASA scientists expect the newly established Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking system on the International Space Station as a key node in the Interplanetary Internet they plan to build out for communications during future space travel. Photo by NASA

WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- A new system deployed by NASA is expected to help the development of an interplanatery space communications system that functions much like the Internet does on Earth.

NASA installed software on the International Space Station to make communication faster and easier, and it is expected to lead to an Internet system that may cover the entire solar system in the future, the agency announced.

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The new communications protocol, called Disruption Tolerant Networking, added this month to the ISS's Telescience Resource Kit, is the agency's first step toward interplanetary Internet, according to a description of the project.

On Earth, information is spread over the Internet through a series of nodes, or communication points, which must be clear and available for information to transmit from one point to another. In space, however, these nodes often are not lined up because of movement.

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The new system, which has been under development for more than a decade, will test messages sent between the ISS and ground stations using delay- and disruption-tolerant networks which can store data temporarily during interruptions in signals because of the constant movement in space of planets and satellites.

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NASA's leap with the new system is the development of Bundle Protocol, which allows for the "store and forward" method DTN uses.

Installation on the ISS establishes the station as a node in what NASA calls the Interplanetary Internet, though the new method of transferring information could be useful on Earth where communications links could be unreliable, such as at the scene of a disaster.

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"Our experience with DTN on the space station leads to additional terrestrial applications especially for mobile communications in which connections may be erratic and discontinuous," Dr. Vinton, a vice president at Google and distinguished visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press release. "In some cases, battery power will be an issue and devices may have to postpone communication until battery charge is adequate. These notions are relevant to the emerging 'Internet of Things.'"

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