ISS Ethernet moves from poky 10Mbps to much faster 100Mbps thanks to new switches

Space was the final frontier for Star Trek and is now the final frontier for Ethernet networks thanks to EADS. This week the European Union’s Columbus space module carried with it the first commercial LAN in space.

The Columbus module that rendezvoused with the International Space Station carried customized ProCurve 100Mbps LAN switches. The switches according to eWeek are to both connect the computers on the space station and the scientific experiments.

The previous network on the space station used much slower 10 Mbps Cabletron LAN hubs. EWeek quotes Rolf Schmidhuber, Columbus data management system technology leader for EADS Space Transportation in Germany as saying, “Originally we only had connected our computers with the 10 megabit LAN, but we felt it wasn't fast enough. We wanted higher performance for the payloads. So we built the system to support scientific payloads accommodated in 19 inch racks, with those payloads connected to the LAN.”

EADS says it selected the ProCurve switches after evaluating switches from manufacturers including Avaya, Cisco, D-Link, Netgear and 3Com. After evaluation ProCurve 2524 switches were selected for the module. EADS says it made some customizations to the switches for safe and reliable usage in space.

Schmidhuber told eWeek, “We have taken the ProCurve as it is, without electrical modifications. The only thing we modified is the cooling method. We removed the heat sink in the switching fabric and substituted it with copper strips that conduct the heat to the housing ground plate.”

An aluminum enclosure was designed for the switches to help them withstand intense vibration associated with space flight.

Astronauts are able to get satellite TV on the International Space Station thanks to DirecTV. With this faster LAN perhaps they can get their game on with some WoW or Counter-Strike.

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