DTN – Delay Tolerant Networking on the mission to mars ?

After the launch of the curriosity mars exploration mission on Nov 26 2011, i was asking in the DTN interest list if these technology is used for the mars mission and i got some interesting responses.


From: Vint Cerf <vint@google.com>

Date: December 13, 2011 7:26:12 AM GMT+01:00

Subject: Re: [dtn-interest] Nasa mars exploration programm and DTN


it will be running the predecessor to the DTN’s Bundle Protocol, CFDP,

if I remember correctly.




and From a NASA emploeer

The following is all public knowledge.


The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) launched Nov 26, 2011.


MSL, like every NASA large project, had substantial cost overruns.  Any new technology is not likely to be included   until the primary mission completes.


I believe Vint is correct that CFDP is being used.  Most likely CFDP mode 2 (reliable transport).  I do not believe CFDP mode 3 or 4 is being used.  Others may know.  CFDP mode 4 is reliable multi hop file transfer with weigh points.  So it is analogous to DTN with only one route option (sting of pearls network).   CFDP mode 2 is reliable file transfer, but single hop.  So you sort of have to manually create a multi-hop store and forward environment.  Others at JPL would know better.  The current NASA future architecture documents support CFDP mode 2, but not mode 3 or 4.  DTN is preferred over CFDP mode 3 and 4 due to the flexibility (multi-path, multi-hop).

I’m not sure of the funding situation, but I think the next major Mars flight may be ” ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), sometimes referred to as Trace Gas Mission (TGM) by NASA, is a flexible collaborative proposal within NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to send a new orbiter-carrier to Mars in 2016 as part of the European-led ExoMars mission.”



TGO may be the next Mars Relay.  Whether or not DTN would be onboard is TBD.  There may be nothing to relay.  Also, ESA is the prime on this mission.  The Space Science Decadal Surveys have basically indicated that any new Mars landing should include sample return or not be done.   In addition, there is a price limit that has been place on such a mission that basically makes it impossible to do within budget.  So, it is currently a NO GO  in the current funding environment.

Space = Politics.

Politics = Uncertainty


IMHO, the most likely early deployment of DTN is near-earth Low Earth Orbiting systems.  But you need to be able to handle multi-gigabyte files.



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