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april 10, 2000 |
nasa extends internet to spacecraft

From the comfort of home, an engineer logs onto the Internet using a laptop computer and communicates with an orbiting spacecraft. Using industry standard Internet protocols, simple keystrokes send commands adjusting the spacecraft's attitude. What seems like science fiction, is fast becoming a twenty-first century reality for engineers assigned to the *Operating Missions as Nodes on the Internet (OMNI) project* NASA has demonstrated the ability to use standard Internet protocols to communicate with an orbiting spacecraft just like any other node on the Internet. Engineers with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) OMNI project, working with the UoSAT-12 spacecraft from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), recently completed the first step in extending Internet access to future spacecraft.

On April 10, OMNI engineers successfully activated the software to obtain the spacecraft's responses to "pings" -confirmation that the spacecraft was operating normally as a node on the Internet. Pings are standard Internet messages that result in a response similar to the echo one hears using sonar equipment. Satellites have been used to provide communication services to support the Internet for over 20 years. However, those services only consisted of providing simple delivery of data bits. This is the first time that a spacecraft ever had its own Internet address and was a fully RFC-compliant active node on the Internet.

One of the goals of the OMNI project is to demonstrate the use of standard Internet protocols and technologies to support NASA's goals of "faster, better, cheaper" missions. This also enables new, innovative future mission concepts such as collaborative observations from multiple spacecraft.

Subsequent tests will expand on the basic network capabilities established and will demonstrate the use of standard Internet applications to support normal spacecraft operations.
NASA Extends Internet to Spacecraft
NASA Engineers Use Standard Internet Protocols To "Talk" With A Satellite
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