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Can Astronauts Use Internet In Space? [The Surprising Reality!]

These days, we can’t imagine life without the internet. We use it for so many essential activities. It’s allowed us to communicate like no other generation that’s come before us. This isn’t a problem if someone is on the other side of the world as long as we have the internet. But what if someone was further than the other side of the world? What if someone wasn’t even on planet Earth? What if, instead, they were up in space. Like is the case for astronauts; do they still have access to the internet? Let’s find out!

So, can Astronauts use the internet in space? Astronauts can use the internet in space. Astronauts can connect to the International Space Station’s WIFI network, which is connected through a network of satellites constructed by NASA. In the past, this signal was very slow; however, these days, it is much improved. Astronauts mostly use the internet to communicate with people on Earth, whether that be NASA’s researchers or their loved ones back home. 

Fascinating stuff, and handy for astronauts too. But how does it all work, and how good is it?

Keep reading, and you’ll know!

Does The Internet Work In Space?

The internet does work in space, and it works quite well. However, it wasn’t just a case of setting a wireless router up. NASA had to invest in constructing their own personal WIFI network to ensure the internet works on the space station. 

Getting WIFI in space poses some obvious problems.

For a start, there’s no chance of running a fiber optic cable back down to Earth from the Space Station.

Then there’s the fact that no WIFI signal on the planet is strong enough to reach an astronaut’s internet device up amongst the stars.

So, getting a hotspot for astronauts is a tricky task.

But it is one that needs to be achieved as it is the best way for astronauts to stay in touch with Earth.

Not only do they need internet access, but they need it to be through a solid connection.

NASA has achieved this.

The internet works in space by use of a series of ground-based antennas known as the Space Network, as well as a system of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites.

It is through these two networks that data is sent from space back to Earth.

Shall we dissect this a little more?

Ok. An astronaut needs to send a research image back to a NASA base on Earth.

They select where they want it to go, then press send.

This image proceeds to travel 22,000 miles to the network of satellites.

From here, the image is sent down to a receiver satellite on Earth’s surface.

Finally, the image is processed. Any data sent follows this path between the space station and Earth.

This could be anything from a request to access a website (that would return immediately having reached the surface) to a blockbuster movie.

How Do Astronauts Access The Internet In Space? 

Astronauts access the internet through the Space Station’s WIFI network. They do so with specialized WIFI products adapted to survive in space.  

Astronauts can access the internet via the international space station’s very own WIFI network.

And they have been able to do so for some time.

The first space-based WIFI network was established in 2008.

This network consisted of two Netgear RangeMax b/g APs that could only support 240 megabit-per-second.

It could also support 52 wired and wireless devices.

By 2012, NASA had upgraded the WIFI connection so that 180 wired and wireless devices could be supported on the network.

From there, NASA has continued to build on the internet foundations they set up.

But how do astronauts actually access the WIFI?

They need a device to do this, and such devices can’t survive up in space!

Yes, you’re right.

Standard WIFI devices, like cellphones and laptops, are unable to protect themselves from the extreme conditions of space.

Sometimes it’s too hot, so devices destroy themselves.

Sometimes it’s too cold, so devices shut down.

But NASA has found a way around this major problem.

Government space agencies have repurposed commercial WIFI products, such as Ipads, iPhones, and laptops, so that they are still usable up in space’s extreme conditions.

So it really is as simple as just going onto one of these devices to connect to the station’s WIFI.

If they want to email, tweet, or check the news, all they have to do is make sure they’ve typed in the WIFI password correctly and are connected.

Then it’s like surfing the web just as you would on Earth.

Of course, depending on your own WIFI connection, astronauts might have it better or worse.

Is There WIFI For Astronauts?

WIFI is available for astronauts to use. They need WIFI to communicate with the researchers back on Earth but also to speak to loved ones as well.

WIFI has made life easier for astronauts.

It’s improved communication methods tremendously.

Which is essential.

If astronauts can’t communicate with NASA’s bases, then the impact they would have on the continuing exploration of space would lessen dramatically.

Whilst astronauts are up on the Space Station, they are collecting research data.

It is far more practical for astronauts to send data back daily than gather it throughout their trip for NASA to only receive it once they have returned to Earth. 

With a WIFI connection, not only can they send large amounts of data to researchers, but they can also stream live footage of themselves and space back down to Earth.

They can communicate between extraterrestrial vehicles.

Spacesuits can even connect to the ISS’s WIFI connection, meaning astronauts can easily communicate with their peers whilst on spacewalks. 

But it’s not just their lives that have benefitted.

Improved communication helps everyone involved.

From loved ones who want a quick catch-up to flight controllers facilitating docking procedures on the space station.

Being able to communicate with friends and family is also a morale booster when you consider how long astronauts are isolated up in space.

Is WIFI Good In Space? 

Yes, these days WIFI is very good in space. Although, once upon a time, it really wasn’t. NASA has been relentless in its pursuit of the perfect WIFI installation for the astronauts. One which will ensure a rapid connection speed.

In the past, connection speeds were pretty terrible.

This was due to the sheer distance that data had to travel between the space station and Earth.

At the time, NASA didn’t have the right technology to improve this connection.

Since then, NASA has worked to significantly upgrade the connectivity levels on the space station. 

Today, the International Space Station possesses a 600 megabit-per-second connection level, doubling the amount of data it can transmit and receive.

And this rate will only increase as NASA continues to develop the WIFI connection up there. 

Having good WIFI up in space is essential.

The experiments being conducted up there require high rates of data transfers between the astronauts on the space station and the researchers back on Earth.

If there isn’t good WIFI, then the research process is going to be very inefficient with obtaining data.

This would be troublesome for researchers.

Luckily, NASA has established a solid WIFI connection that allows the smooth and quick data transfer process. 

As we discover more about space, research will need to delve further, which means experiments will have to go deeper.

The accommodating of such experiments will continuously rely on stronger WIFI connections. 

Rest assured, NASA will be able to keep the pace with their research needs.

They are always looking to upgrade the WIFI connection onboard the ISS.

In recent years, they have constructed a new digital ground architecture for the space network.

They have upgraded the circuits in the terrestrial data lines between Earth-based components.

And they’ve also upgraded the software-based modem as well as the data processors at various NASA bases.

So, you could say that NASA is striving for a WIFI connection like no other here on Earth.


WIFI has even found its way up into space. Who knows what NASA will establish up there next? 

One thing we do know is that WIFI has improved the lives and work of astronauts up in space.

Wondering what else astronauts can and cannot do? Then my other guides may be of interest: