Ethernet LANs have been used everywhere from the data center to the home and even the Starbucks around the corner. But space could very well be the final frontier for the technology. On the Columbus module in the Atlantis Space Shuttle that rendezvoused on Feb. 16 with the International Space Station, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company installed customized ProCurve 100 Mbps LAN switches designed to connect not only computers on the ISS, but also scientific test and measurement equipment.
"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," said Rolf Schmidhuber, Columbus data management system technology leader for EADS Space Transportation in Bremen, Germany.
EADS Space Transportation selected the ProCurve 2524 LAN switches after evaluating switches from Avaya, Cisco, D-Link, Netgear and 3Com. The ProCurve 2524 switches were selected for their performance, reliability, robustness, resistance to radiation and mechanical disruption and management functions. "We focused on vendors that could provide a small box with few electronic components [to minimize] potential radiation problems," said Schmidhuber. "In radiation tests we did in Switzerland, we found that HP was the best of those we had [evaluated]. And some of the other switches could not be programmed or adjusted as HP's could."
Although EADS Space Transportation had to make some changes to the ProCurve 2524 switches, including eliminating the sheet metal enclosure, Schmidhuber said they are the first commercial switches in space.