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Interplanetary Internet Tested

Delay-tolerant network will weave a different kind of web in space

3 min read

The many paths a message can take through the Internet make that network robust and efficient—and the envy of those whose job it is to design communications schemes for the far-flung spacecraft leaving Earth each year. After more than a decade of development, NASA is in a rush to have a communications network ready by 2011 that can efficiently carry data between Earth and the multiple probes, rovers, orbiters, and spacecraft exploring the solar system—effectively binding them together to form an interplanetary Internet. Tests performed on the International Space Station last May were the second of three tryouts of the network’s key technologies, called Delay Tolerant Networking, or DTN, protocols.

The DTN protocols will extend the terrestrial Internet into space by overcoming a number of obstacles, including the extraordinary length of time it takes packets to move between separate hops in a deep-space network, the intermittent nature of network connections, and bit-scrambling solar radiation.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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