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Bringing the scalability, reliability, and performance of the Internet to space – we get your data home.

High-Rate Delay Tolerant Networking (HDTN) Project

In an effort to satisfy growing user requirements on data return and expand the capabilities of NASA’s exploration and science missions, there is a drive to accelerate the infusion of optical communications technology with existing radio frequency (RF) capabilities into one operable network. The Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program is developing new communications technology that can be used to increase the amount of science data returned on future space missions.

Communicating from Earth to any spacecraft is a complex challenge, largely due to the extreme distances involved. When data is transmitted and received across thousands and even millions of miles in space, the delay and potential for disruption or data loss is significant. Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN) is NASA’s solution to reliable internetworking for space missions. The High-Rate Delay Tolerant Networking (HDTN) project at NASA’s Glenn Research Center (GRC) is developing a protocol suite that acts as a high-speed path for moving data between spacecraft payloads, and across communication systems that operate on a range of different rates.

Demo of an HDTN process relaying data through a hybrid radio frequency (blue) and optical communications (red) network through deep-space on NASA’s future Laser Communications Relay Demo (LCRD) mission

Technology Advancements

DTN is a computer networking model and a system of rules for transmitting information, often referred to as a protocol suite, that extends the terrestrial Internet capabilities into the challenging communication environments in space where the conventional Internet does not work well. These environments are typically subject to frequent disruptions, links that are limited to one direction, possibly long delays and high error rates.

The HDTN team at NASA GRC has identified several technological solutions to address the space network’s needed upgrades while considering the existing RF infrastructure. The project aims to provide reconfigurable store, forward and routing capabilities that will support evolving mission requirements and developing infrastructure, while providing feedback paths to enable the foundations for future system cognition and autonomy. The implementation includes both proactive and reactive link management solutions to utilize nodes across a heterogenous network in an optimal manner.

Although the hardware and software specifics of an HDTN implementation will be application dependent, the relationship between DTN as a protocol standard and processing architecture, memory storage and I/O elements will remain constant as a reference architecture.  The resulting networked buffering solution is general enough to provide mission scalability and interoperability with other DTN implementations.

Description of HDTN working with several other new technologies to expand space communications capabilities.

Animation explaining Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) Protocol.

Future DTN Applications

In May 2016, the International Space Station implemented an institutional Delay Tolerant Network (DTN) service to support payloads. The Space Station DTN implementation greatly enhances the reliability of the payload science data transmissions and reduces operational overhead and planning and provides an architecture to support future mission support applications. The research and development team at NASA Glenn is currently working on an application for the International Space Station. The Space Station HDTN implementation is software-based to function on the existing processors on-orbit. The prototype has successfully and consistently demonstrated bundle routing across a test bed emulator in the laboratory.

The work being completed at NASA GRC is done in collaboration with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and will be combined with their DTN implementation, known as DTN-ME, for delivery to the Space Station.  Future spacecraft applications may require faster rates than the current arch texture can provide, so a hardware accelerated version of HDTN is also under development, targeting 100-200 Gbps, using field programmable gate arrays.

DTN multiple paths
DTN enables the use of multiple paths and providers to efficiently deliver data from deep space to Earth

Download the Latest HDTN Code

Download the latest HDTN code here: GitHub – nasa/HDTN

Download the HDTN User Guide

Download the HDTN User guide here: High-Rate Delay Tolerant Networking (HDTN) User Guide Version 1.1.0

Running and Configuring the Product

HDTN 101: How to use the HDTN bundle translator code

HDTN 101: Building HDTN Using Linux

HDTN 101: Building HDTN on ARM Platforms

HDTN 101: An Introduction to the HDTN GitHub Page

This technical presentation is for those interested in running the High Data-rate Delay Tolerant Networking (HDTN) application on their systems.

HDTN Community Day – Running and Configuring the Product


TitleYear Published
4K High Definition Video and Audio Streaming Across High-rate Delay Tolerant Space Networks2023
Exploring New Frontiers in Space Communications: Enhancing Delay Tolerant Networking through Cloud and Containerization2023
Application of Fountain Code to High-rate Delay Tolerant Networks2023
Cooperative Clustering Techniques For Space Network Scalability2023
Emulated Spacecraft Communication Testbed for Evaluating Cognitive Networking Technology2023
Contact Multigraph Routing: Overview and Implementation2023
Large-Scale Space Network Simulator for Performance-Optimized DTNs2023
New Horizons for a Practical and Performance-Optimized Solar System Internet 2022
A Survey of Mathematical Structures for Lunar Networks - Published in Proceedings of IEEE Aerospace Conference 20222022
Developing High Performance Space Networking Capabilities for the International Space Station and Beyond2022
Toward the Development of a Multi-Agent Cognitive Networking System for the Lunar Environment2022
Towards Software-Defined Delay Tolerant Networks2022
A Distributed Approach to High-Rate Delay Tolerant Networking Within a Virtualized 2021
Applying the Cognitive Space Gateway to Swarm Topologies2021
Alleviating Bundle Throughput Constriction for Delay Tolerance Networking (DTN) Bundles with Software-Defined Networking (SDN)2021
Rising Above the Cloud - To ward High-Rate Delay-Tolerant Networking in Low-Earth Orbit2019
A Delay Tolerant Networking -Based Approach to a High Data Rate Architecture for Spacecraft2019
Free Space Optical Link Utilizing a Modulated Retro-Reflector Intended for Planetary Duplex Communication Links between an Orbiter and Surface Unit2019
Delay Tolerant Network Routing as a Machine Learning Classification Problem2019
Application of Machine Learning Techniques to Delay Tolerant Network Routing2019
Evaluation of Classifier Complexity for Delay Tolerant Network Routing2019
Optical Communication Link Assessment Utilizing a Modulated Retro-Reflector on Mars2018
On the Development and Application of High Data Rate Architecture (HiDRA) in Future Space Networks 2017
A Machine Learning Concept for DTN Routing2017
Transmission Scheduling and Routing Algorithms for Delay Tolerant Networks2016
High Data Rate Architecture (HiDRA)2016
Networked Operations of Hybrid Radio Optical Communications Satellites2014
Integrated RF/Optical Interplanetary Networking Preliminary Explorations and Empirical Results 2012
On Applications of Disruption Tolerant Networking to Optical Networking in Space 2012

External Publications

TitleYear Published
All about Delay-Tolerant Networking (DTN) Contributions to Future Internet2024
NASA Delay Tolerant Networks: Operational, Evolving, an Ready for Expansion2023
Long-Range Space Data Communication Autonomous Distributed Scheduling2023
Implementing a Cognitive Routing Method for High-Rate Delay Tolerant Networking2023
Roaming DTN: Integrating Unscheduled Nodes into Contact Plan Based DTN Networks2023
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