NASA Tests Interplanetary Internet

Ever thought about how much you would miss the Internet in space or on another planet?

Well, me either…until now. 😛

NASA has been working on and testing what they call “Interplanetary Internet” and have successfully transmitted images using a method based on our current Internet technologies to and from a spacecraft 20 million miles from Earth.

NASA and Vint Cerf, a vice president at Google, in Mountain View, Calif., who is often called the father of the Internet, partnered 10 years ago to develop the software protocol used for space transmissions, called Disruption-Tolerant Networking, or DTN. The DTN sends information using a method that differs from the terrestrial Internet’s Transmission-Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) communication suite, which Cerf co-designed.

The Interplanetary Internet must be robust enough to withstand delays, disruptions and disconnections in space. Glitches can happen when a spacecraft moves behind a planet, or when solar storms and long communication delays occur. For instance, the delay in sending or receiving data from Mars takes between three-and-a-half to 20 minutes, even at the speed of light.

If a disruption occurs in the pathway along which the information travels, each node in the network will hang on to its information until it’s safe to communicate, unlike our Internet on Earth, which just discards the data packets.

The new network could ease communication with distant spacecraft and enable new kinds of space missions.