NASA tests Internet command
- By Bryant Jordan
- Nov 09, 2000
It's now the Out-Of-This-World Wide Web.
A demonstration this month at the Johnson Space Center in Houston may
open the way for the command and control of space operations from the ground
via the Internet.
"For longer than 30 years we've been controlling things in space from
the ground, but what's different about this [project] is NASA is looking
at harnessing the power of the terrestrial Internet and pushing that into
space," said Phillip Paulsen, project manager for Internet in space at NASA's
Glenn Research Center in Ohio.
The experiment, conducted Nov. 1-3, followed one performed a year ago
and proves the feasibility of controlling experiments in space from the
ground without compromising other operations in space, according to Paulsen.
During the test, operators at several locations on Earth sent commands
via the Internet to a simulated spacecraft at the Johnson Space Center.
The commands were directed first to a specially developed control center
at Johnson for handling and securing the transmissions between ground and
space, then up to a NASA tracking and data satellite, and finally to the
simulated craft back at Johnson.
The mission commands were simple — basically creating a vacuum in a
bell jar and turning lights on and off. But Paulsen said they were significant,
not only to prove the capability but also to test mission priorities.
For example, he said, "what do you do if multiple researchers are all
trying to access their experiment, or if you have a high-priority user trying
to get in while someone else is hogging the bandwidth?
"The list [of concerns] is endless," he said.
The next step, he said, is to conduct a demonstration using an operation
spacecraft of some kind.
"I'm hoping that in the not-too-distant future we can use an orbital
test bed — operated off the space shuttle or the space station, or even
a small standalone satellite," he said.
As with many NASA projects, however, that will have to wait.
"Right now, we don't have the funding," he said.