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Wireless Networking NASA Space Hardware

Wi-Fi, Now Available On the ISS 142

Grant Henninger writes "Rejoice! The next time you have an extra $20 million and decide to visit the International Space Station you won't need to leave the window to tell all your friends how cool it is. The ISS now has a new Wi-Fi network, so all you'll need to do is fire up Twitterrific and announce how much better you are than your Earth-based friends."
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Wi-Fi, Now Available On the ISS

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  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:10PM (#24906019) Homepage Journal

    It has to be AT&T.

    Can't wait to see the bills [] on this one.

    • Actually, its the new "at&t".
    • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @09:50PM (#24906771) Homepage

      Funny you should mention that.

      A /. article a few months ago found [] that sending a text message is about 4 times as expensive (per kilobyte) as retrieving data from the Hubble.

      • by Prof.Phreak ( 584152 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @10:11PM (#24906901) Homepage

        sending a text message is about 4 times as expensive (per kilobyte) as retrieving data from the Hubble.

        Well then... given it's tax dollars, they probably implemented the wifi link via text messages :-)

        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          Well it certainly will feel like it when you factor in the latency.

          Guy on ISS: Hey, what the heck? Why do I keep getting fragged before I even know it is coming!?! Ping time? Oh, let me check. One and a half seconds. Oh, I see. Local server, yes. Great idea. We'll have NASA send one up next time Soyuz docks....

          • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @11:53PM (#24907515)

            Actually, the latency between ISS and anywhere on earth should theoretically be no worse than roughly double the time it would take to make a trip halfway around the earth via fiber. Remember, geostationary satellites have latency issues because they're about 28,000 miles away from Earth. The ISS is only about 200 miles up... approximately the distance between Miami and Orlando, or Paris and London. The only reason I even factored in as much time as I did is the fact that ISS moves relative to the earth, so in order to avoid breaking TCP/IP and give it an apparent fixed IP route to the rest of the internet, all traffic to and from it would have to pass through a single network point somewhere (probably Houston), then be forwarded via fiber to an uplink somewhere within the ISS's line of sight at that moment. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the ISS's internet connectivity actually is implemented using more or less off the shelf cellular data technology (using NASA's frequencies, with higher-power transceivers spaced further apart, but the same general idea as CDMA or GPRS data). Then again, to cut costs, they might very well have implemented internet connectivity on the ISS by just adding two or three tracking dishes to it, and using the same satellites as VSAT internet, which WOULD subject them to the same drawbacks as terrestrial customers. God, can you imagine the headlines if ISS ended up getting FAP'ed?!? :D

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by starshining ( 998625 )
              The shuttle comm mostly goes through TDRS satellites which are in geosync. So it has the delays associated with that distance. Sometimes UHF or a ground-based S-band is used for a direct link but that is not a typical setup.
        • Well then... given it's tax dollars, they probably implemented the wifi link via text messages :-)

          I was personally hoping they were going to implement it via RFC 1149 [] (IP Over Avian Carrier)

      • Yeah but at least you get local rate up there...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by noidentity ( 188756 )

      And we already know who is the ISP. It has to be AT&T. Can't wait to see the bills on this one.

      Yeah, they'll find it's cheaper to send the data up on hard drives.

  • Proof (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    That intelligent life has been found.

    Nothing would bum our new alien overlords more than finding out our space stations ain't WiFi compatible.

    • ...Except the SSID being 'linksys'

      "We see you have a space station. It's very nice, but dude, we're not sharing the warp drive specs with you until you figure out WPA"

  • China? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Now they won't have to smuggle viruses aboard on memory sticks... They can just point a dish at the ISS and jump on their network.
  • by Tyger ( 126248 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:14PM (#24906059)

    Alright, who is going to be the first to start the new war-orbiting trend?

    I wonder if it is an unsecured wireless network. Does being far above anyone else who could access your wireless network count as security through obscurity?

    • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:30PM (#24906217) Homepage Journal

      You just know that NASA will probably cooperate with a stunt like this. Heck, they may even hold a contest for engineering students: "Who can be the first to ping our wifi network from a ground station and hold the signal from horizon to horizon?"

      Winning team gets a photo-op with NASA engineers, bragging rights, and job interviews when they graduate.

      Runners-up have to be content with $250 cash prize and a promise NASA will actually read their resumes.

      • by amdpox ( 1308283 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:37PM (#24906271)
        I don't think a Pringles cantenna is going to be sufficient here... anyone got a spare grain silo laying around?
        • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:48PM (#24906355) Journal

          Actually, you might be wrong. As contests go, this would be fairly cool. There is some gear you can buy for telescopes that might do the trick. The ISS won't track across the sky in quite the same manner as a distant galaxy, but I'm sure it can be adapted to work. One cantenna might not be enough given the normal anomalies that plague people trying to communicate wirelessly through the atmosphere but then again, if you had several of them, spaced appropriately, all tracking the ISS you might be able to pull enough sig-2-noise to pull it off. I'm also reasonably certain that such arrays already exist, if configured slightly differently for different uses. It would be a good RF engineering project for colleges. 'more' is better, not bigger is better, in this case. I'd like to see this contest happen.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dfjunior ( 774213 )
            Wouldn't the skin of the ISS function as a Faraday Cage and severely limit transmission of the Wi-Fi signal?
        • gah, I hit post too soon. Try this link [] []... there are others

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by tcolberg ( 998885 )
            If they saw off one end of one of the ISS modules, they could make the largest cantenna ever!
        • Back when MIR was up, I connected to the ax25 BBS on-board several times with nothing more than an omni-directional antenna and about 5 watts. Granted, 144 mhz degrades a lot less than 2.4 ghz, but a good high-gain yagi, tracking software to aim the antenna, and some sort of doppler frequency compensation might just do the trick. I wonder if the A/P is wide open on the ISS? If so, hats off to the crew for providing me a target to totally kick ass in the next decon wi-fi shootout. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I can imagine the chaps on SpaceShipTwo making a fly-by with a laptop, just for the sake of it.
    • by Cathoderoytube ( 1088737 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @09:09PM (#24906487)
      I can only imagine. The ISS will get hit with a lawsuit by the RIAA because some freeloading college kids are accessing their network to download music.
    • The very first thing I wondered after reading this was how many Pringles cans would turn skyward.
    • Well, considering that the WiFi distance record is at least 237 miles: []

      I would think firing a signal out of the atmosphere would give you better distance than parallel to the ground. If a previous poster was right that the ISS is only 200 miles up (sounds about right to me....) then a regular wireless card with a good dish antenna right here on earth should be able to connect tot he ISS wireless network if it's not encryp

    • Thats sorta what my neighbors and I do... if someone can connect to us, means they are on our property, and Florida has that nice castle doctrine law....

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... Must be one hell of a cantenna.
  • by sleeponthemic ( 1253494 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:17PM (#24906095) Homepage

    Fresh pron. (That one tattered penthouse they were allowed to bring up is starting to fall apart).

  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by nightglider28 ( 1243916 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:18PM (#24906111)
    New hobby: War-rocketing.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I hope they are using WPA to secure the connection, you know, because WEP is pretty useless for security.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jrockway ( 229604 )

      I hope they are using WEP so I can get a free connection the next time I am launched into orbit.

  • internet pr0nz!!1!

  • by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) * on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:21PM (#24906141)
    The next time you have an extra $20 million...all you'll need to do is fire up Twitterrific and announce how much better you are than your Earth-based friends

    The next time I have an extra $20 million, I won't need Twitterific or even a visit to the ISS to let my friends know how much better I am than them. I'll hire people to follow my friends around town to let them know that fact on an hourly basis.
    • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:38PM (#24906279) Journal

      ...a slight upgrade to your plan?

      Hire SUPERMODELS instead of mere "people".
      You can thank me for this small and yet brilliant upgrade by paying me a small sum of US$ 181829.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No, I would say that he should hire mere people for his friends and hire supermodels to follow HIM around and tell everyone how much better he is.

      • by darkonc ( 47285 )

        Hire SUPERMODELS instead of mere "people".

        Hell, no. The whole point is to annoy them. I don't care what she's teasing me about... If you pay a supermodel to follow me around 24/7 I'm gonna be calling you up to thank you.

        Of course, I'll be walking around backwards, walking into lightposts and getting run over by cars, but I'll be happy the whole time.

      • If all his friends do is hang out in their parents' basement while posting on /. there's not going to be a lot for that supermodel to do all day.
    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      You mean the people that you would be calling your friends.

  • It'd be neat if (ordinary) people could send messages to the astronauts on the station..

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PachmanP ( 881352 )
      Yeah but the 5 or 6 messages us earthbound folk would send would be drowned out in the noise of the millions of emails from a guy named Dick Strong telling them about ch3ap V1aGr4 and randome Nigerians.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @11:46PM (#24907475) Homepage

      you already can... get a ham license and a 2 meter radio and packet TNC.

      I send message to the astronauts on the ISS on a regular basis. you can leave a message in their TNC if they are not live chatting.

  • Finally a use for my super-super-cantenna!
  • I just built my own high-gain WLAN antenna I want to try out...
  • Certainly (Score:2, Funny)

    by cefek ( 148764 )

    And NO CARRIER would actually mean something now.

  • Am I the only one worried about this? Given this recent Slashdot story: []
    I certainly hope they cleaned up that laptop first.
  • by Workaphobia ( 931620 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:30PM (#24906227) Journal

    There is nothing inherent in the phrase Wi-Fi that mandates that a network is Internet-connected. Indeed, nothing in the "article" suggests any access to the Internet from the station. This appears to just be an extension of their existing LAN.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by starshining ( 998625 )
      correct no internet on board and this is just an upgrade to the existing setup
    • Just to be pedantic, there's nothing in the phrase "wi-fi", or "wireless fidelity", that really means anything at all. "Fidelity" is another word for "accuracy", so when we say something is low-fidelity or high-fidelity, we're referring to how accurately it reflects the original signal, and it has nothing to do with the means by which the signal is transmitted. "Wireless fidelity" is a phrase utterly devoid of meaning, so if you're going to bother bickering about it, you can start by doing what you can to
  • This only means they will get more viruses []!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by willyhill ( 965620 )

      Alternatively, it also means they're not running Ubuntu... since they got wireless capabilities... /thanksi'llbehereallweektrytheveal

  • Don't want the neighbors stealing our bw!
  • by DeadBugs ( 546475 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:47PM (#24906343) Homepage
    That would explain why every 90 minutes or so "ISS" pops up on my available networks and then promptly disappears.
  • by bornwaysouth ( 1138751 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:52PM (#24906383) Homepage
    I thought there are fears that once the Shuttles no longer service the ISS in 2010, then access to the ISS will be limited to nations that can say "Da, you can have Georgia" in Russian.

    So your friends will have to accept you talking through a Russian interpreter. This may well improve the conversation. I mean, how often can you say 'The earth is a blue and white ball' without getting boring. Whereas, a mistranslation such as 'Why on earth are your balls blue and white?' will at least help.
    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      Of course, all of the tourists to date have gone up on Russian launches, so nothing will have changed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tftp ( 111690 )
      A Russian equivalent of "ball" would be "shar" which means spheroid, or a football / tennis ball, and nothing else. Plural of this word is equally harmless. To get to the ball(2) [] that was assumed in your mistranslation you'd have to translate "egg".
  • Is it free? (Score:5, Funny)

    by snikulin ( 889460 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:57PM (#24906405)
    My 20 mil contract does not say anything about WiFi. Should I buy a cup of coffee to use it?
  • by catmistake ( 814204 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @08:59PM (#24906413) Journal

    contrary to what the summary suggests, wifi doesn't mean internet connection.

  • in space, no one can hear you... ahh. forget it
  • by __aailob1448 ( 541069 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @09:21PM (#24906559) Journal

    Shouldn't they have fiber by now?

    That's what they get for trusting the U.S telcos to deliver.

    • Can you imagine the furor if it was provided by the Australian government?
    • by darkonc ( 47285 )
      Nah. FTTS (Fiber To The Satellite) would have most of the engineering problems associated with a Space elevator, plus issues associated with the ISS's low orbit (and, thus, high speed relative to the ground).

      Shouldn't they have fiber by now?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Thelasko ( 1196535 )

      Shouldn't they have fiber by now?

      Fiber? With the space station's plumbing? [] That sounds like a horrible idea.

      Sorry, I couldn't resist.

  • Finally! The ISS is available to everyone with a Pringles can and a pigtail!
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @09:25PM (#24906595) Journal
    It looks like it might actually be possible to connect to ISS wifi from earth. The ISS is around 350km above the surface, and current records for surface to surface links are a little bit larger than that [].

    The surface to surface number is for two custom endpoints, not one standard, one custom, doesn't have to deal with the ionosphere, and was between two stationary locations; but it suggests that the challenge isn't insurmountable. A radio astronomer could probably eat this one for breakfast.
    • ... the next supply shipment on the Soyuz will include Pringles
  • I had assumed the ISS was wireless already...
  • by Newer Guy ( 520108 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @09:31PM (#24906639)
    Netgear wireless routers-they're out of this world!
    • Netgear wireless routers-they're out of this world!

      I noticed that in the story as well. Then I thought "you can't even buy advertising like that" - until I figured they probably did buy their spot on the ISS.

      Either way, very keen placement of their name in the article.

  • Anybody know the operable range of an 802.11g signal in space?
  • So does this mean that I can actually frag an astronaut in a FPS? Or pwn them in WoW? Wouldn't that give you bragging rights...
  • Can we play Quake on ISS' Internet?

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @10:12PM (#24906907)

    To: Gfnnrzx
    From: Plftspnk
    Subject: New WiFi Hot Spot

    Hey dude! I was cruising thru the wasteland in my saucer and I found this great open hot spot. Its right near that crazy pile of junk orbiting planet Irth. Just pull up behind them, so they won't see your ship and you can log your laptop onto the Irth Internet and download lots of cool homosapien p0rn. Also, log onto this site called Slashdot and post something about welcoming alien overlords. They'll get a kick out of it.

    Later, dude.

    P.S.: What's a lap, anyway?

  • seems that it would be hard if it were wired... >_>
  • Some ISS jokester is gonna connect to someone down on Earth and start speaking in clicks and gurgs. CONTACT!
  • For those who are really serious about (or nuts enough) trying to pick up ISS wifi signal.

    Check out when ISS will appear over your head using []

    Enter your coordinates and it will let you know exactly when and where it will appear over your horizon.

    • by plover ( 150551 ) *
      I don't know if your link to "Heaves-Above" was a typo, Freudian slip, or an intentional joke, but I like it a lot!
  • so which cell carrier is going to be the first to send a microcell up?
    This also means that iphone and ipod touch can now purchase music and apps from Itunes in orbit, wonder who gets dibs on that one....

  • Just remember to load kismet onto the laptop first. The essid is probably hidden, and the person who knows it isn't due back for 6 months...

  • by neoform ( 551705 ) <> on Sunday September 07, 2008 @02:25AM (#24908095) Homepage

    Aliens leeching on all the torrents.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost