20 Nov : The US space agency NASA said that it successfully conducted a first test of a deep space communications network modelled on the Internet.
"This is the first step in creating a totally new space communications capability, an interplanetary Internet," Adrian Hooke, NASA’s manager of space-networking architecture, technology and standards, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The US space agency said Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers used software called Disruption-Tolerant Networking, or DTN, to transmit dozens of space images to and from a NASA spacecraft some 32.4 million kilometers from Earth.
NASA said the software protocol, which must be able to withstand delays, disruptions and disconnections in space, was designed in partnership with Vint Cerf, a vice president at Internet search giant Google.
DTN sends information using a method that differs from the normal Internet’s Transmission-Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, communication suite, which Cerf co-designed, NASA said.
Unlike TCP/IP, DTN does not assume a continuous end-to-end connection, NASA said, noting that glitches can happen when a spacecraft moves behind a planet, or when solar storms and long communication delays occur.
It said the delay, for example, in sending or receiving data from Mars takes between three-and-a-half minutes and 20 minutes at the speed of light.
NASA said that if a destination path cannot be found, data packets are not discarded but kept by each network node until it can communicate safely with another node.
Eventually, it said, the information is delivered to the end user.