Thursday, July 24th, 2008 at 2:59pm

Internet to be revised for interplanetary communications

Posted by Jordan Erickson –

It looks like the way we communicate on the Internet will be evolving to tackle communications beyond the tiny little planet we call home.

TCP/IP, the communications protocol of the Internet, has done very well for us. However, it has its shortcomings when it comes to transmitting information into deep space. This involves issues such as making sure messages get to their destination safely when there are long periods of disconnection; things such as radio line-of-sight being obstructed by a meteor. If we were to use pure TCP/IP in space, when a link fails in a situation like this, the connection is dropped and must be retransmitted directly from the source.

However, a technique dubbed delay-tolerant networking (DTN) would allow for the ‘custody’ exchange of transmissions from link to link. Put in simple terms, say you send an e-mail from Earth to Mars – to send some pictures to your favorite deep-space rover of a cute little kitten. During the transmission, a meteor decides to block the radio signal between the two of you. With DTN, a middle-man router (like the one that connects your office or home network to the rest of the Internet) would take custody of the transmission and hold it until it can communicate with the rover – instead of having to transmit the entire message again from your computer.

It seems inevitable that the Internet will evolve to adapt to deep-space communications – to better help astronaut communication, rover-to-rover communication, and other such beneficial communications that are thought of once we expand our little network to the bigger-badder universe as a whole.

© 2008 Logical Networking Solutions: I.T. and Networking Specialist, Lake County, CA