Blog 001

Building (and governing) the Solar System Internet

By Dr. Alberto Montilla • August 2020

A conversation between Vint Cerf and Scott Burleigh.

Scott Burleigh: The crux of the question (is), how do we replicate (the success of the terrestrial Internet) in the Solar System Internet?

Vint Cerf: Part of the problem is that we don't have exactly the same set of rules of behavior in space as we have on this planet, I think what Scott (Pace) was saying has bearing on how this might evolve. I don't think we should attempt to impose on the Solar System Internet some top-down set of regulatory structure...I would argue instead that we should begin to get experience with the implementation and operation of the Interplanetary network, we should particularly learn what it takes to cooperate with each other in order to make it work using components that are owned by multiple parties, so in some sense, we are there a little bit because we work with ...(other space agencies) test and try out, and now use as we return to the Moon in the #Artemis program.

So, I would like to see cooperative efforts to say, refine the implementation and operation of the Interplanetary system initially.

Now, what happened in the case of (terrestrial) Internet is that once it left the government-sponsored environment (in our case in the US there were four agencies, they were involved but all of their networks were under the jurisdiction of each of the departments), when the commercial sector started offering service in 1989, we had to introduce a set of rules and structures that would allow these independent entities to work with each other, but still have control over their respective pieces of the net, and I think that's exactly what we're going to have to do with the Interplanetary system, regardless of whether we have private sector use or not, I think there will be components of the Interplanetary systems that are responsibility of different government agencies, and when it becomes commercialized we just add those commercial elements to the same picture, so we'll have to have technical protocols that allow interaction, routing, access controls and the like, and agreements about how we will protect the implementation in the system.

An ilustration of the Solar System Internet concept. NASA.

The above discussion is an extract of today's Space Internet Governance InterPlanetary Networking Special Interest Group's webinar conducted by Dr. Scott Pace - Executive Secretary of the National Space Council of the US government, Dr. Vint Cerf - One of the fathers of Internet (Google) and Scott Burleigh - NASA-JPL and one of the fathers of the Disruption and Delay Tolerant Networking (aka DTN), one of the building blocks of the InterPlanetary Internet. Replay of the webinar available here.

Header image: Property of NASA.

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