NASA’s Disruption Tolerant Networking Challenge Series

Welcome to the NASA Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) project. DTN is an approach to computer network architecture that seeks to address the technical issues in heterogeneous networks that may lack continuous network connectivity. Examples of such networks are those operating in mobile or extreme terrestrial environments, or planned networks in space. Disruption may occur because of the limits of wireless radio range, sparsity of mobile nodes, energy resources, attack, and noise.

About Us

While the speed of light is our friend here on Earth allowing people on the other side of the globe to communicate via the Internet in just a fraction of a second, this same speed of light works against us as we start to travel to other planets. To explore the Solar System, we must overcome the communication time delays caused by the vast distances between planets (as limited by the speed of light) and the disruptions caused by planetary rotation, orbits, or just limited transmission power. This is where you come in! We need your help in building a suite of protocols that make up the Disruption Tolerant Network (DTN) that can work over long time delayed communications links and can hop from point to point using a store and forward approach (which allows data to hop across available communications paths). Specifically, we are working on making sure we can secure all of the communications using these protocols and, since these are open protocols, doing lots of work to ensure all of the implementations are interoperable. Help us now and maybe you’ll be able to communicate with systems on other planets in the not too distant future.

This challenge is supported by the NASA Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation and its contract with Harvard and TopCoder under the NASA Tournament Lab.


Project Personnel

Scott C. Burleigh
Principal Engineer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
California Institute of Technology


Scott Burleigh has been developing software at JPL since 1986. He was a co-author of the specifications for the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS) File Delivery Protocol (CFDP) and Asynchronous Message Service (AMS), and as a member of the Delay-Tolerant Networking (DTN) Research Group of the Internet Research Task Force he co-authored the specifications for the DTN Bundle Protocol (RFC 5050) and the DTN Licklider Transmission Protocol for delay-tolerant ARQ (RFC 5326). He has developed implementations of these protocols that are designed for deep space mission systems, aiming to enable deployment of a delay-tolerant Solar System Internet.

Jason A. Soloff
Systems Engineering Lead
NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate


Mr. Soloff serves as a Systems Engineering Lead for the NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. In this capacity, Mr. Soloff is responsible for ensuring systems engineering of Human Space Flight programs. Mr. Soloff is also responsible for development, coordination and integration of international communications and space networking technologies, and is a member of NASA’s delegation to the Space Internetworking Architecture Group of the IOAG. Mr. Soloff’s experience includes staff positions in the GSFC Microwave & Communication Systems Branch, the JSC Avionics Systems Division, and as the Lead of the Avionics & Communications Office for the Constellation Program. Mr. Soloff’s other program experience includes the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (GPM), the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the Space Shuttle, and the International Space Station. Mr. Soloff holds undergraduate and masters degrees from the Pennsylvania State University, and a Graduate Certificate in Space Systems Engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Karim R. Lakhani
Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
Principal Investigator, Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

Karim R. Lakhani is the Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and the Principal Investigator of the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science. He specializes in the management of technological innovation in firms and communities. His research is on distributed innovation systems and the movement of innovative activity to the edges of organizations and into communities. He has extensively studied the emergence of open source software communities and their unique innovation and product development strategies. He has also investigated how critical knowledge from outside of the organization can be accessed through innovation contests. Currently Professor Lakhani is investigating incentives and behavior in contests and the mechanisms behind scientific team formation through field experiments on the TopCoder platform and the Harvard Medical School.

Rinat Sergeev
Data Scientist, Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab
Institute of Quantitative Social Sciences, Harvard

Dr. Rinat Sergeev is a Data Scientist at the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab (NTL). Rinat works as a lead science and technical expert on exploring and utilizing crowdsourcing approaches in application to Big Data challenges, faced by NASA and Government. In his role, Rinat provides full guidance and support on all aspects of the project from problem definition/formulation, to resolving all issues through execution, working closely with all parties involved. Rinat received his PhD in Physics of Semiconductors in Ioffe Institute, Saint Petersburg. Following his innate curiosity, he pursued challenges in a variety of academic fields, from Quantum-Mechanical Processes to Immunology and Epidemiology. His research interests include conceptual analysis, analytical approaches and models in multiple areas. Currently, Rinat is a growing specialist of machine-learning algorithms and algorithmic challenges. His personal interests include Math puzzles, strategic games and politics.

Keith Scott
Principal Engineer, The MITRE Corporation
Chairman, CCSDS Cislunar Space Internetworking Working Group

Dr. Keith Scott worked for NASA JPL from 1997-1998, where he used ACTS mobile terminal data to characterize the effects of Ka-band satellite channels on TCP and SCPS-TP performance. While at JPL, Keith also performed communication analyses for several prospective missions, including ones involving formation flying and Mars sample return. Since joining The MITRE Corporation in 1998, Keith has worked on a number of projects for NASA and the DoD concerning communications in stressed environments including satellite and tactical data links. Keith led the CCSDS Next Generation Space Internet effort, and is the chairman of the CCSDS Cislunar Space Internetworking working group. His involvement in both the CCSDS and C3I areas will ensure coordination between NASA’s plans and emerging international standards. Keith is also a member of the Internet Research Task Force’s Delay Tolerant Networking Research Group (dtnrg), which is developing mechanisms to provide communications services in highly stressed environments involving very long delays and disconnections.

Adam M. Schlesinger
Communication Systems Engineer, Wireless and Communication System Branch
NASA Johnson Space Center

Mr. Schlesinger is a communication systems engineer in the Wireless and Communication Systems Branch at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). Mr. Schlesinger serves as the JSC technical lead for the NASA DTN project, leading efforts to infuse DTN technology on the International Space Station (ISS) and with Advanced Exploration System (AES) projects. Mr. Schlesinger also serves the communication systems domain lead for the Avionics Architectures for Exploration AES project where he has been working to develop a communication architecture and technologies for future space exploration. Mr. Schlesinger holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

A Special Message From Vint Cerf

“Fifteen years ago, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the first stirrings of what is now called Delay and Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) began to take shape. Born out of a belief that 25 years hence (i.e. about 2023) a richer networking environment than point-to-point radio links would be required, the small team of developers debated the architecture of an interplanetary internet. Out of this work came the Bundle Protocol, the Licklider Transport Protocol and the general notion of delay and disruption tolerance. Today, that vision is being fulfilled with prototype operations on the surface of Mars and in orbit, on the International Space Station and on board the EPOXI comet-visiting spacecraft. Moreover, thanks to the support of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), these ideas have also been tested in terrestrial, tactical environments with good results. This leads to the belief that these resilient protocols may be useful for terrestrial, mobile and emergency services communication in addition to space-based applications. It would be hard to overstate the level of excitement I feel for this exploration into new communication architectures for the 21st Century.”

-Vint Cerf
Distinguished Visiting Scientist, JPL