Technology pioneered by Vint Cerf, one of the creators of the Internet's basic communication protocols
Future space and interplanetary missions will see the increasing use of a decade-old technology pioneered by Vint Cerf for long-distance communication and data transfer. For the uninitiated, Vint Cerf happens to be one of the creators of the Internet's basic communication protocols.
The technology known as DTN, Disruption Tolerant Networking, is all set to be used for "long-distance communication" such as during interplanetary communication relay, where distances are measured in units comprising a few million miles. As the name suggests, DTN is planned to be a "disruption free" communication protocol, which will use the Internet as a medium. The reason for its adoption is its inherent design, which is optimized to carry data over exceptionally long distances without compromising on quality or detail. Data conveyed across long distances is usually prone to corruption, and in some cases there is significant loss of detail, especially in conditions similar to those existing in space, where data is prone to corruption due to solar storms and planetary interference.
DTN, however, uses a "store and forward" method, which uses specialized "nodes" to store data, from where it is forwarded to the next node. The best feature of this method is that the data is safe at a node until the node can establish safe contact with the next node. While transfer rates of data may slow down during this type of transfer, it keeps data safe.
NASA has been testing DTN extensively over a period of one month using the Epoxi spacecraft as a data relay device. NASA successfully managed to send and receive data from the spacecraft, currently located almost 20 million miles away from the earth.
Leigh Torgerson, DTN manager at JPL, in a statement said, "In space today, an operations team must manually schedule each link and generate all the commands to specify which data to send, when to send it, and where to send it. With standardised DTN, this can all be done automatically."
Let's hope space tourists and travelers in future will have an option to check mails while onboard spaceships taking them to their preferred planets. The mere thought puts a smile on the faces of Internet freaks!