Many years ago I remember reading about the upcoming implementation of the internet protocol IPv6 - which is now in place. In that article it mentioned that there was some discussion about space - I mean outer space, not namespace. At the time, it seemed that the author was not just speculating, but that they were actually referring to some plans or at least calculations.

I'm not asking about private networks, or ESA or NASA networks. I'm asking about the "normal internet" that we all (well, most of us) can use.

note: This question is about the internet, not internet access. Put in terrestrial terms, I'm not asking about the WiFi vs 4G access to a router, I'm asking about the router's connection to the rest of the routers - the internet.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't know about plans, but currently the communication with space involves antennas that are too expensive to operate, with bandwidth too thinly spread between these, who really need it, that "most of us" can't freely access it. Think "long distance calls" before the era of communication ubiquitous enough that you get unlimited Internet access. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jun 3 '16 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ @SF. If you can afford to get yourself to Mars, you can probably afford an antenna too. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 3 '16 at 6:27
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, I mean you may afford to get yourself to Mars, and an antenna for yourself, but you can't have your neighbors and several million other people to use that single antenna to access your blog you run from your Martian server. Your antenna provides enough bandwidth for you - and little more, if that. It's not like a big telco is going to lay a fiber cable between their data center in L.A. and your Olympus colony. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jun 3 '16 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ I think you are looking for the Interplanetary Internet. See also InterPlaNet which is the underlying protocol for long-distance hops. It's worth noting that the estimated number of atoms in the universe is 1e80, while IPv6's address space provides for only 3.4e38 unique addresses, so we fall just a little bit short of being able to address every atom in the universe. We need 272-bit addresses (7.5e81) for that. $\endgroup$ – user Jun 3 '16 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ @SF. If Mars had it's own large network, but it wasn't connected to the Earth's network, would it be "internet"? If the Earth's network was severed into two separate, non-communicating networks, which is the "internet"? Both? Neither? The side of the world I'm on? $\endgroup$ – Steve Jun 3 '16 at 16:52

As Michael pointed out, there is a protocol specified for Interplanetary Internet, which is designed to cope with the much larger (and varying) delays that are incurred over such distances.

Currently there is Internet in space, and for its end users it works exactly the same way yours does on the ground. But the data stream is then piggy-backed onto the existing comms that are used between the ISS and ground.

What you seem to be asking for is ubiquitous connectivity - to be honest, it is always going to be directional comms links that are used, and any Internet traffic will be piggy-backed over them.

This is actually what happens on Earth anyway - your OSI model network stack includes a physical layer which can be fibre, or copper, or wireless, etc. For space that bottom layer will be optical or wireless (an EM wave of some kind, anyway) and rather than trying to run enough power for an omnidirectional antenna, planet to planet links would be directional (similar to point to point links here on Earth)

  • $\begingroup$ I was actually trying to ask about the rollout of IPv6 and if at that time there was any specific plan to accommodate space, but it turns out that this discussion has taken a much more interesting and relevant direction. I hadn't even given much thought to the latency. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 4 '16 at 14:15

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