Build your own space communications network – on your iPhone

Among the many unsung heros of the space program are the people who build and maintain NASA’s space communications networks. After all, every spacecraft, whether it’s Hubble, the International Space Station, or even your everyday weather satellite has to communicate with the ground somehow. But let’s face it, space communication is not exactly the glitziest of jobs in the space program.

It does, however, make for a pretty cool game!

NASA’s Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) program are kicking off this year’s World Space Week with NetworKing, a cool little game that let’s you build up your own space communication network:

Screen shot from NetworkKing – Credit: NASA/SCaN

The premise is fairly straightforward – you start out with a single ground station to keep track of two satellites for the duration of their missions. The more of you communicate with spacecraft, the more credits you earn to build additional ground stations, make repairs, and improve your network capacity. The more network capacity you have, the more spacecraft you can support and the more credits you can earn to develop more technologies and build out your network.

Along the way you have to deal with disasters that randomly happen to any of your ground stations, keep as many spacecraft flying as possible without overloading your network, and so on. Eventually, you can build up the entire Near Earth Network, the Space Network, and the Deep Space Network – all of which are actual networks consisting of actual ground tracking and relay satellites operated by NASA in real life.

I don’t play games that often but once I got the hang of it I found it to be fairly straightforward. I even admit it brought back some memories of my brief stint as a spacecraft flight controller at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center. It was there that I “flew” spacecraft through the same ground stations depicted in this game.

So check it out as it’s definitely worth a play. NetworKing is available for Windows, Mac, and iOS and best of all, it’s free!

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