A document describes the Inter - planetary Overlay Networking Protocol Accelerator (IONAC) — an electronic apparatus, now under development, for relaying data at high rates in spacecraft and interplanetary radio-communication systems utilizing a delay-tolerant networking protocol. The protocol includes provisions for transmission and reception of data in bundles (essentially, messages), transfer of custody of a bundle to a recipient relay station at each step of a relay, and return receipts.

Because of limitations on energy resources available for such relays, data rates attainable in a conventional software implementation of the protocol are lower than those needed, at any given reasonable energy-consumption rate. Therefore, a main goal in developing the IONAC is to reduce the energy consumption by an order of magnitude and the data-throughput capability by two orders of magnitude.

The IONAC prototype is a field-programmable gate array that serves as a reconfigurable hybrid (hardware/ firmware) system for implementation of the protocol. The prototype can decode 108,000 bundles per second and encode 100,000 bundles per second. It includes a bundle-cache static random-access memory that enables maintenance of a throughput of 2.7Gb/s, and an Ethernet convergence layer that supports a duplex throughput of 1Gb/s.

This work was done by Jackson Pang, Jordan L. Torgerson and Loren P. Clare of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-45584


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This article first appeared in the October, 2008 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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