Internet body vets space data comm standard

The Internet Engineering Task Force has published the Request for Comments document on Delay-Tolerant Networking (DTN).

DTN is a new protocol designed for transmitting data across networks of intermittent connectivity. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is developing DTN, along with volunteers from Google Inc., Intel Corp. and Mitre Corp.

Originally, JPL designed DTN for interplanetary data communications, although the Defense Department has funded the effort in hopes of using the technology for on the battlefield, where end-to-end network connectivity is not ensured.

The DTN architecture 'addresses a variety of problems with internetworks having operational and performance characteristics that make conventional (Internet-like) networking approaches either unworkable or impractical,' according to the RFC.

For instance, connectivity to a satellite orbiting Mars will be extinguished during those periods when that spacecraft is on the far side of the planet, obscuring a line-of-sight to Earth.

Under this architecture, network routers and end nodes would bundle and hold data until connectivity is regained. 'It includes a hop-by-hop transfer of reliable delivery responsibility and optional end-to-end acknowledgment, [and] also includes a number of diagnostic and management features,' according to the RFC.

Publishing a protocol as an IETF RFC is a crucial first step in making that protocol an Internet standard; it allows members of the Internet community to familiarize themselves with the work.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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