All the data generated on the ISS is sent through NASA’s Space Network, a collection of nine tracking and data-relay satellites. Data from the ISS is sent to whichever satellite is in view, which then transfers that data to ground terminals and then on to a data center. The Space Network currently provides connectivity to and from the station at 300 megabit/sec.
To improve speed, NASA will upgrade hardware at its ground terminals. A new architecture that allows the network to accommodate new users and capabilities is being implemented, which should also reduce the cost and effort required to operate and maintain the system, the space agency said.
NASA also plans to expand the Space Network’s network capacity next year with the launch of an additional relay satellite.
By upgrading the onboard and ground data communications systems and increasing data downlink rates from the ISS, data centers will be able to receive more information, faster. Data sent through the Space Network from the ISS includes mission-critical data like the crew’s health, system statuses, onboard science experiment results as well as high-definition video and all social media posts. On average, the Space Network handles 28 terabytes of information a day from 40 NASA missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA also is improving communication speeds for its Deep Space Network, which enables communications for interplanetary missions. AT&T is providing a high-speed virtual private network that will connect the Deep Space Network’s radio antennas so NASA can protect and transmit data three times faster, according to a company statement.