NASA takes Ethernet deeper into space

space shuttle

While Ethernet technology has gone places no one would have envisioned 36 years ago, NASA today signed an agreement with a German Ethernet vendor to build highly fault-tolerant networks for space-based applications.

TTTech builds a set of time-triggered services called TTEthernet that is implemented on top of standard IEEE802.3 Ethernet. Its technology is designed to enable design of synchronous, highly dependable embedded computing and networking, capable of tolerating multiple faults, the company said.  

According to the vendor, with TTEthernet, robustly partitioned multimedia data streams, critical control data and standard LAN messages can operate in one network without unintended congestion or interactions. The idea is to circumvent limitations of Ethernet technology for design of advanced integrated systems, the company said.  

The TTEthernet system comes in 100Mbit/sec and 1G bit/sec packages.  NASA already uses some of the technology in its Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.  Ethernet technology is used extensively across other NASA systems as well.

In addition, NASA and TTTech will collaborate on space network standards that will lead to an open space Ethernet standard suitable for deployment in upcoming space networks in NASA programs and space systems.

NASA is looking for all manner of essential communication and navigation network requirements as well as network architecture options including: terrestrial network services, Earth-based ground stations, Earth- and lunar-orbiting satellites and lunar surface equipment as it preps for future space projects.

According to NASA, such network services may include terrestrial network services, terrestrial ground stations, Earth and lunar orbiting capabilities as well as lunar surface capabilities. They may be complete turn-key services, subsystems or components; applications for specific functions; or other capabilities believed to be necessary to meet a portion of anticipated needs, NASA stated.

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