Over the last decade, Google VP Vint Cerf teamed up with NASA to develop something called the Disruption Tolerant Network (DTN), an Internet that works in space. This month, they made the first successful test.
How does DTN differ from the Internet that enabled your computer to load this page? In simple terms, Cerf’s so-called Bundle Protocol tells machines to save incomplete data they’ve received, even if the transmission is disrupted by interference. DTN instructs recipient machines to save the bundles until they’re completely transmitted, no matter how long that takes. Then, the data packets are forwarded to the next recipient, in a system NASA calls “store-and-forward.” “[It’s] similar to a basketball player passing the ball down the court to other players nearer to the basket, who hold it as the team assembles to await the final pass to a player who has a clear shot at the goal,” explains Adrian Hooke, manager of NASA’s Space DTN project at NASA headquarters.