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Interplanetary Internet about as useful as flying pigs says Vint Cerf

InterPlanetary Networking Special Interest Group gets a reality check

Boffins that want to see Internet protocols extend to outer space – the so-called “Interplanetary Internet” – need to prove they're offering something useful, according to one of the father-figures of the Earth-bound Internet.

Vint Cerf, who has taken an interest in beyond-Earth applications for the Internet protocol stack since the 1990s, told last week's InterPlanetary Networking SIG (IPNSIG) meeting that to get beyond a mere curiosity, the SIG needs to be useful.

“Our challenge, to the extent that we're interested in serious expansion of communications capability for space exploration, is to demonstrate its utility,” Cerf told the gathering.

“It's not that anyone thinks that you should just build this interplanetary thing and hope that somebody uses it,” he added.

One possibility, for example, is that spacecraft that support these kinds of protocols could, having fulfilled their primary mission, have a longer economically-useful life if they can then become nodes in the interplanetary backbone.

And there's no doubt that there'll be a lot more data being flung around in space: last year, for example, the success of NASA's LADEE broadband experiment showed that free space optics could cook along at hundreds of megabits a second without an atmosphere to get in the way.

But there are nearer-term payoffs to be had more nearby: Delay-Tolerant Networking (DTN) is something useful even on Earth. The Internet of Things, for example, provides plenty of use-cases in which a communication from a sensor has to follow an indirect, relayed path to the Internet and back.

El Reg would also note that the considerations of reliability, a small code base, network efficiency and security that the IPNSIG is considering also look on-topic for the “real world”.

The IPNSIG threw a gabfest last week, and presentations and videos from the event have now been posted here, including updates to the Interplanetary Overlay Network (ION) code suite, recent NASA experiments, and a DTN-enabled public key infrastructure demo from Boeing. ®

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