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Do astronauts have internet in space?

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.@PrestynChapman @NASA We have a slow internet connection. Worse than what dial-up was like. 

WWW started in ISS around 5 years back. Expedition 22 Flight Engineer T.J. Creamer made first use of the new system , when he posted the first unassisted update to his Twitter account, @Astro_TJ, from the space station.

Previous tweets from space had to be e-mailed to the ground where support personnel posted them to the astronaut’s Twitter account. on May 11, 2009, astronaut Michael J. Massimino, a crewmember of the space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-125 mission, became the first person to use the microblogging site ” From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun! “

This personal Web access, called the Crew Support LAN, takes advantage of existing communication links to and from the station and gives astronauts the ability to browse and use the Web. The system will provide astronauts with direct private communications to enhance their quality of life during long-duration missions by helping to ease the isolation associated with life in a closed environment.

During periods when the station is actively communicating with the ground using high-speed Ku-band communications, the crew will have remote access to the Internet via a ground computer. The crew will view the desktop of the ground computer using an onboard laptop and interact remotely with their keyboard touchpad.

Astronauts will be subject to the same computer use guidelines as government employees on Earth. In addition to this new capability, the crew will continue to have official e-mail, Internet Protocol telephone and limited videoconferencing capabilities.

Astronauts basically use a modified Lenovo Laptop, which is specially designed for more cooling effect. The modifications aren’t to hardened the laptops against cosmic radiation, they have to do with cooling. You see, passive coolers rely on air convection, which doesn’t exist in microgravity. On earth, when air around a radiator is warmed, it becomes lighter than the cool air around it, and rises away. This makes room for a supply of fresh cool air to replace it.

In the ISS’s microgravity environment, there’s no up or down, so the air around a radiator just keeps getting hotter and hotter–it doesn’t rise away. Adding fans to move air across passive coolers solves the problem. If the laptops use heat-pipes to move heat inside the machine, assume they’d have to be replaced as well.

Heat Pipes use convection, along with a coolant liquid that boils at a low temperature, to efficiently transfer heat from hot components (CPUs and GPUs usually) to a single radiator and fan setup.

What makes the connection so slow compared with broadband Internet speed on the ground? There are no fiberoptic cables hooking up to the ISS, so the internet speeds aren’t blazing fast.

Best way to understand  is to consider the distance that data has to travel. When an astronaut clicks a link on a website in space, that request first travels 22,000 miles away from Earth, to a network of geosynchronous satellites far beyond the relatively close station. The satellites then send the signal down to a receiver on the ground below, which processes the request before returning the response along the same path.

Another way to think about the Internet connection from space is as “remote access to the Internet via a ground computer,” as NASA once explained. Or, as one Redditor put it in a discussion of the Internet connection: “The ping is quite high because of the satellite transmission to earth, but the bandwidth isn’t too terrible.” So the capacity for data transmission is robust, but the time it takes to transmit by an Earthling’s standards is way too slow.

To get online, astronauts are plugging into the same channel that’s used for all kinds of commands to the International Space Station. “It’s the satellite constellation that we use for all of our spacecraft operations,” said Dan Huot, a spokesman for NASA.

As per NASA, Internet connectivity may improve as NASA plans to utilize Laser based syatems, which is much faster and efficient way to Transmit Data.

Next post will be about – High Speed Internet in Space

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