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WLANs Target Final Frontier

It's one small step for wireless LAN… one giant leap for WLANkind.

Leastways, that's what Tropos Networks (formerly FHP Wireless) is hoping. The startup has been tapped by NASA for its 802.11 kit because the agency wants to take wireless LAN to the final frontier.

Nope, not New Brunswick, but space -- specifically, Mars.

NASA has been testing Tropos's mesh networking WLAN kit as a potential technology that could enable manned missions to create instant communications cells when they land on the red planet. "Obviously, that's at least a decade away," says Tropos VP of marketing and interplanetary development, Bert Williams. [Ed. note: Obviously!]

Tropos's mesh networking technology uses dedicated access points that work together to create metropolitan area cells of a mile or more (see Tropos Taps Intel). Williams says that NASA has been getting throughput of 1 Mbit/s over a range of 1.3 miles while running the Tropos access points off tiny electricity generators for its test program.

NASA has been testing the systems in Meteor Crater, Arizona, a 20,000 year-old, five-mile-wide hole in the ground by made a -- you guessed it! -- meteor.

"It’s the closest approximation of the Martian atmosphere in the U.S," explains Williams. Unstrung cannot confirm suggestions that the agency's second choice for a test site was the House of Lords.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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