NASA’s Disruption Tolerant Networking Challenge Series

Welcome to the NASA Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) project. DTN is an approach to computer network architecture that seeks to address the technical issues in heterogeneous networks that may lack continuous network connectivity. Examples of such networks are those operating in mobile or extreme terrestrial environments, or planned networks in space. Disruption may occur because of the limits of wireless radio range, sparsity of mobile nodes, energy resources, attack, and noise.

Project Background

NASA needs to integrate the ION Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) implementation of Bundle Protocol (BP) with Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange Server to support the transfer of astronaut email to/from the International Space Station (ISS).

Astronauts currently use Microsoft Outlook on the ISS connected to a Microsoft Exchange Server on the ground to send and receive email from ISS.  The current system operates over TCP/IP on links that are delayed and frequently disrupted due to ISS structural blockage and Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) handovers.  The combination of delay and disruptions causes Microsoft Outlook to frequently have problems and become unusable, particularly when sending emails with large attachments, such as pictures or videos.

Check out this infographic that helps explain the NASA Astronaut Email Challenge

Two permanent DTN gateways will be available to support operations and payloads users on ISS starting in March 2015. The corresponding ground nodes will also be put in place.

The gateways are the nodes that all DTN traffic will hit before being transferred over the space-to-ground link. The network setup can be thought of as: [Exchange Server]<->[Ground DTN  Gateway]<->[Space DTN Gateway]<->[Microsoft Outlook Client]

These DTN assets will be utilized by Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Server to remedy the email problem that currently exists on ISS.

High Level Requirements

NASA needs a plug-in/extension for Outlook/Exchange Server that converts the TCP-based protocols used by Outlook (on-board the ISS) to communicate with an Exchange server (on Earth) to instead use the DTN Bundle Protocol. If a plug-in is not feasible, then any other type of mechanism or gateway application is sufficient.

The DTN support code will need to satisfy the following requirements:

1. The solution must include both ends of the communication (client-side and server-side).
2. The DTN support code shall not cause interference with other ground users that are using the same Exchange server without DTN.
3. The solution must be able to support:
—–1. Unpredictable suspension of communication for up to 4 hours.
—–2. Unpredictable loss of data.
—–3. Round trip times on the order of .6 s – 1 s.
4. The DTN support code shall utilize the ION 3.2.0 API for all bundle transmission and reception.
5. The DTN support code shall support all traffic/functionality to/from Outlook/Exchange to use the DTN protocol, and if that is not feasible within the budget/timeline, we need to focus on email & calendar, and anything else will be considered a bonus. This must work in both directions (Outlook to Exchange and Exchange to Outlook).
6. The DTN support code shall interface with Microsoft Outlook/Exchange Server 2010 (only the 2010 version, and no others are required).
7. The DTN support code for Outlook 2010 shall operate on a computer running Windows 7.
8. The integration with Outlook and Exchange shall be configurable to use the ISS DTN assets that should be available in March 2015.
9. The DTN support code shall have the ability to turn the DTN functionality on/off as required.
10. Security is a concern for this project, and we will need to ensure that the final code has been tested for malicious code and vulnerabilities.

The DTN support code can assume and use all features of the BP for Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS) Protocol that is currently a draft specification within the CCSDS.  For instance, the DTN support code can assume that it can rely on the ‘custody transfer’ reliability mechanisms of BP, as well as features such as Delay Tolerant Payload Conditioning (DTPC) described in the draft specification.

Final Solution

The final solution must be code that integrates Bundle Protocol with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange server, and enables the sending and receiving of email over BP.

Atomized Project Plan

So what’s coming up, and how do I register? Simply select any of the contest names below to find out more about each specific contest, and register to participate.

Name Contest Type Start End Status
Outlook and Exchange System Architecture Architecture 04/23/2014 05/12/2014 Completed
MS-RPC over HTTP – Proxy Module Architecture Architecture 05/27/2014 06/08/2014 Completed
MS-RPC over HTTP – ION-DTN Module Architecture Architecture 06/03/2014 06/16/2014 Completed
MS-RPC over HTTP – Proxy Module Assembly Assembly Competition 06/08/2014 06/23/2014 Completed
Ground Asynchronous HTTP Client Assembly Assembly Competition 06/08/2014 06/23/2014 Completed
ION-DTN Module Assembly Assembly Competition 06/16/2014 07/02/2014 Completed
Adapt lighttpd proxy and asynchronous client First2Finish 06/21/2014 06/23/2014 Completed
NASA Astronaut E-mail – Mod Proxy is not working with Outlook client First2Finish 06/30/2014 07/10/2014 Completed
TCP Proxy Assembly Assembly Competition 07/18/2014 07/30/2014 Completed
TCP Proxy Notification Manager Assembly Assembly Competition 07/31/2014 08/17/2014 Completed
Outlook and Exchange Test Scenarios Test Scenarios 08/23/2014 09/08/2014 Completed
Proxy DTN Integration Assembly Assembly Competition 09/17/2014 09/24/2014 Completed
NASA Astrounaut Email – Applause Security Testing (no contest link) First2Finish 03/26/2015 04/05/2015 Not Yet Completed
Fix Defects Raised by Security Testing Assembly Competition 04/13/2015 04/29/2015 Not Yet Completed
Applause – Security Testing Re-review (no contest link) Milestone 05/01/2015 05/01/2015 Not Yet Completed


*PLEASE NOTE: The contest start and end dates are estimates only, and may shift forward or backwards depending on contest progress. To verify a contest start date, please select the contest name to view the registration page.