NASA debuts new internet technology aboard the ISS
The ISS has a new technology on board that can transmit data from space much faster than what NASA uses today. See, the internet as we know it here on Earth doesn’t work as well for spacecraft millions of miles away. It requires all nodes or connection points on a network — in space, these are satellites — to be active at the same time to send information back to the ground team. Since that’s not always possible due to the various elements that can block a connection, such as planets, other spacecraft, radiation, and so on and so forth, it takes a long time for data to make it back to Earth. In the worst cases, some data gets lost along the way. This new tech called Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) gets rid of those problems.
DTN uses a “store and forward” technique to send info to other spacecraft or back to NASA. It can store partial bundles of data in connection points and then forward those bundles when the next node becomes available. DTN doesn’t require all nodes to be online at the same time, and that can dramatically cut down the time for data to reach its recipient. NASA’s animation below explains it well:
NASA has been testing DTN for years, but this its first big deployment. While the ISS isn’t exactly having issues beaming data back to the agency, the technique will be especially useful in the future, when there are more probes roaming our solar system and when we’re sending spacecraft to much farther locations.