US military plans to put Internet router in space

US military plans to put Internet router in space
US military plans to put Internet router in space 

By John Blau
IDG News Service
April 12, 2007

The U.S. military plan to test an Internet router in space, in a project 
that could also benefit civilian broadband satellite communications.

Cisco Systems and Intelsat General, a subsidiary of Intelsat, are among 
the companies selected by the U.S. Department of Defense for its 
Internet Routing In Space (IRIS) project, which aims to deliver military 
communications through a satellite-based router.

Potential nonmilitary benefits of the IRIS program include the ability 
to route IP (Internet Protocol) traffic between satellites in space in 
much the same way packets are moved on the ground, reducing delays, 
saving on capacity and offering greater networking flexibility, Lloyd 
Wood, space initiatives manager in the Global Defense, Space & Security 
division of Cisco, said Thursday.

To send a message from one remote terminal to another via satellite 
today requires the first terminal to send the data to the satellite, 
from where it is bounced back to an earth station for routing. The earth 
station retransmits it to the satellite on a different frequency, 
selected depending on its destination, and the satellite bounces it back 
to its destination. With the router in space, the satellite can pick the 
channel used to send the message to its destination. By eliminating the 
message's round trip to the earth station, operators can increase 
satellite capacity and reduce transmission times between remote 
terminals by using fewer hops and fewer frequencies for each message.

For the IRIS program, satellite operator Intelsat will manage the 
three-year project, with Cisco will provide IP networking software for 
the on-board router.

After testing, the technology will be available for commercial use.

Although satellites have been passively relaying IP traffic since the 
1970s, the use of an orbiting satellite as an active part of the 
Internet is a more recent development, according to Wood.

Traditionally, communication signals that come up to a satellite in 
either the C-band or the Ku-band, go down in the same band, he said. 
They require separate transponders that don't communicate with each 

Internet routing technology being tested in the IRIS project will enable 
this communication by "decoding what comes up in the C-band or Ku-band 
and interconnecting the two," said Wood.

"You save on delays and capacity by not having to go back to the 
ground," said Wood. "And once you have smarter satellites, you can treat 
them as not completely separate but as part of your IP network and 
manage them as you do your IP networking assets on the ground. They 
become fully integrated with your terrestrial network, allowing you to 
take advantage of existing management tools and also decrease the number 
of ground stations."

The IRIS payload will support network services for voice, video and 
data. The system is designed to support IP packet Layer 3 routing or 
multicast distribution, which can be reconfigured on demand.

The Defense Information Systems Agency will have overall responsibility 
for coordinating the use of IRIS technology among government users and 
leveraging IRIS capability once the satellite is in space.

The satellite is set for launch in the first quarter of 2009.

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