From Outer Space to Earth: Managed File Transfer at the Speed of Light
Permanently attached to the International Space Station (ISS)—the highest and fastest research facility in the world—the European Columbus Laboratory specializes in fluid physics and material and life science research.
Over the next few years, astronauts in the laboratory will dedicate their research to collecting and generating data on musculoskeletal, biomechanical and neuromuscular human physiology, with the goal of better understanding the effects of microgravity on the muscular system.
At the heart of the European Columbus Laboratory’s research into the muscular system is data—and lots of it. Astronauts working onboard the ISS expect to collect hundreds of megabytes of data for each research session they complete. With the team operating in outer space, the research crew needed a secure way to share information between scientists in space, and back down to Earth.
Transferring scientific data from the ISS located 250 miles high to research facilities on Earth is incredibly complex. First, the data collected and stored on the MARES (Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System) research hard drive must be transferred through space to a monitoring laptop used by astronauts. Then, through the ISS’s ground link capability, the research is transferred down to Cadmos, the scientific support facility at the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, Toulouse, France, which is responsible for monitoring the experiments here on Earth.
The ISS needed a solution that could:
- Provide the highest levels of automation and speed to enable astronauts to quickly and easily share information
- Protect sensitive scientific findings, as well as medical or private data
- Move large volumes of data quickly
- Ensure system reliability
“Our astronauts have a limited amount of time to complete critical and extensive research,” says Alain Maillet, Cadmos engineer. “They simply don’t have time to waste navigating file transfer failures.”
After evaluating several network file transfer solutions, the MARES equipment manufacturer selected Ipswitch’s WS_FTP server and uploaded the software onto the Russian Progress spacecraft bound for the International Space Station. Ipswitch’s server was the only solution that could provide the simplicity, speed, security and automation needed to handle the MARES’s file transfers.
Through Ipswitch’s server, the scientific data transferred between astronauts in space and back down to Earth is fully secure with 256-bit AES encryption and file integrity validation. Additionally, the WS_FTP server automates the entire transfer process, including essential post-file transfer actions like deleting, archiving, moving and renaming file sources.
The MARES equipment is being commissioned for the next three years. Over the course of the research and experiments, MARES will use Ipswitch’s WS_FTP server for secure and reliable network file transfer. Having uploaded the software to the station, researchers expect Ipswitch’s tool to speed file transfers, improve data security and streamline operations.
About the International Space Station
The International Space Station is an internationally developed research facility, located 250 miles high in space. With a unique microgravity environment, the ISS serves as a primary research laboratory for the advanced study of space medicine, physical sciences, life sciences, meteorology and astronomy.
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