July 21, 2011
Shawnee State University along with a group of universities and research labs are trying to build an interplanetary Internet using Delay Tolerant Network (DTN) software.
SSU Department of Business Administration faculty Janice Johnson, chairperson and assistant professor, and Dovel Myers, assistant professor, are working with NASA Glenn Research Center, Google, Ohio University, Trinity University in Ireland, Comnet, TKK in Espoo, Finland, BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Mass., IBR, TU Braunschweig in Brunswiek, Germany, and Viagénie in Québec City, Canada.
DTN is a network designed to operate effectively over extreme distances such as those encountered in space communications or on an interplanetary scale.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory writes that "large scale future space exploration will offer complex communication challenges that may be best addressed by establishing a network infrastructure. The Internet protocols are not well suited for operation of a network over interplanetary distances and the Delay Tolerant Networking architecture has been proposed instead."
"The Internet spans the whole planet but it is very dependent on time and if it doesn't connect within a period of time, it shuts the connection," Johnson said. "That works great for Internet on Earth but it doesn't work for Mars."
As with the existing Internet, any message that is sent from one computer to another is broken down into packets and then it gets sent out, she said.
The group is finding ways to send signals over far distances and SSU is researching how the packets are handled.
"On the Internet that's not a problem but when going from Earth to Moon or Earth to Mars, the message is going to go out but it's days, weeks, months before the message gets there," Johnson said.
The SSU research group takes routers connected up to the normal Internet, and uses the DTN software to build a simulation to a group of servers that in the future might be on different planets and they use DTN to talk to each other.
Myers has worked with different agencies and companies doing research for his doctorate and got SSU involved in the DTN project.
"We were able to get some grants and we've been able to get some students to work on it," Johnson said. "It is very rare for undergrads to have an opportunity to work on a project of this size."
In March of this year, Johnson presented the NASA DTN research project at the Milennicon convention in Cincinnati and participated in panels on "Myth of the Intelligent Machine," "Fear of Technology," and two professional ethics panels. In May, she and Myers presented the research project at the Marcon convention in Columbus, and participated in panels on "Cyberethics and Virtual Law" and "Real life versus Second Life".
Two students, Justin Daily and Zack Sims, who graduated in Spring 2010 at SSU, worked on the project with Meyers and Johnson. They presented information about the project at the Internet Engineering Task Force meeting in Los Angeles last year and both were accepted at Ohio University graduate school focusing on this project. Daily has successfully completed his graduate program. Sims is in an internship with MTI Systems.
The project team has been invited to this year's meeting to present updates and discuss the network management solutions work in which they are collaborating with Ohio University.
The project is funded in part by the OBR Research Incentive grant at SSU.