Tests underway of interplanetary internet
By Matthew Sparkes
Posted on 12 Sep 2008 at 12:25
Testing of the "interplanetary internet" is now fully underway, with traffic being sent between Earth and an orbiting satellite built in the UK.
Last year a Cisco router was launched into orbit and used to test the standard IPv6 protocol in space. However, these latest tests have been investigating the possibility of transmissions at much greater distances, where the delay between sending and receiving of packets can be measured in seconds or even minutes.
Data was successfully sent from the UK-DMC satellite built by Surrey Satellite Technology to a base in the UK using the delay-tolerant "bundle" protocol, which is designed to form the backbone of the interplanetary internet and allow transmission from one end of the solar system to the other.
While this may seem like a premature move, the technology is expected to be put into use in the not too distant future.
Voice and data communications between Earth and craft orbiting in space have been a reality for several decades. In general these technologies have been separate from the development of the terrestrial internet, but they have on occasion overlapped. For example, a file was sent via FTP between Earth and an orbiting satellite in 1996.
The prominent computer scientist Vint Cerf, often dubbed the father of the internet, is one of the group working on the concept of a space-based extension to the internet at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
As well as simple data transmissions the group is also working on computer-networking protocols, and plans to install a permanent network link to a station on Mars before the end of the year, using the InterPlaNet system that will build upon the bundle protocol.
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