Want to Drive Innovation through Crowdsourcing? Learn the 5 Steps Get the eBook ×

Space, The Final Email Frontier

By rashid In Uncategorized

Posted April 23rd, 2014

Do you ever find yourself hitting “send” on an email and wondering if it’ll arrive in the recipient’s inbox?

Sending email has become so ubiquitous, simple and nearly instantaneous that we may take it for granted.

In reality, sending an email is a very complex process.

Does the diagram above give you a headache? Yeah, me too.

Now imagine how much more complex it would be if you’re sending an email from Earth to the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS orbits the Earth at a height of 230 miles (370 km) at a speed of 4.791 miles per second (7.71 km/s).

It’s moving fast, like really fast.

Astronauts, Cosmonauts and Space Cadets (ok, we made the last one up) need email too.

Astronauts, Cosmonauts and Space Cadets (ok, we made the last one up) need email too.

Currently the ISS has email – but there are some challenges. The current system operates over TCP/IP (regular old internet) on links that are time delayed and frequently disrupted due to the structure of the ISS blocking the transmission of data or by the handover of communication between the various ground installations to communication satellites (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System: TDRSS) and eventually on to the ISS.

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.

Here’s how NASA needs your help – we need 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).

Are you up for the challenge? Our first contest opens for registration today. To learn more about this project, please visit topcoder.com/DTN

Live long and prosper,

@rsial – Rashid Sial

P.S. Did you know the ISS has an observation deck called the cupola? It bears a strikingly awesome resemblance to the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon.

P.P.S. I know mixing Star Trek & Star Wars is a geek faux pas. Apologies.