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Disruption Tolerant Networking Technology Used to Send 'Internet' Message from Space to Earth to Maneuver Robot in Germany

Satellite Technology

Satellite Technology Feature Article

November 09, 2012

Disruption Tolerant Networking Technology Used to Send 'Internet' Message from Space to Earth to Maneuver Robot in Germany

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor


Internet enthusiasts may try to convince others that the Internet is out of this world. Well now it is.

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced this week that they successfully used an “interplanetary Internet” last month that was able to control a rover on Earth from the International Space Station.

The test relied on Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) technology to transmit messages, NASA said in a statement.

Astronaut Sunita Williams used a NASA-developed laptop to maneuver a small LEGO robot at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, NASA adds.

"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," Badri Younes, NASA's deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation, said in the statement. "The experimental DTN we've tested from the space station may one day be used by humans on a spacecraft in orbit around Mars to operate robots on the surface, or from Earth using orbiting satellites as relay stations."


DTN is a new communications technology. It allows for communications, like with the Internet, but over long distances. It also allows for time delays associated with orbit or deep-space spacecraft or robotic systems, NASA said.

The technology “one day may enable Internet-like communications with space vehicles and support habitats or infrastructure on another planet,” according to the NASA statement.

DTN uses Bundle Protocol (BP), similar to Internet Protocol (IP) which is used on the current Internet.

“While IP assumes a continuous end-to-end data path exists between the user and a remote space system, DTN accounts for disconnections and errors,” NASA explains. “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.”

DTN was created by others, Vint Cerf, who helped come up with the original Internet Protocol, ZDNet said.

Given that the United States would like to further explore Mars, the new technology could eventually help astronauts explore other planets while orbiting Mars, Space.com reported.

Currently, NASA’s Curiosity rover is on Mars traveling on the planet’s surface performing various tests, TMCnet said. It may look for evidence that life once existed on the planet.




Edited by Brooke Neuman

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