U.S. Military To Put Router In Space

    April 13, 2007

The U.S. Department of Defense, in conjunction with Intelsat, Cisco, and several other companies, intends to put an Internet router into space.  While impressive, it’s not quite “Star Wars” . . . .  Think “orbital communications,” instead.

Dubbed Internet Routing In Space (IRIS), the project will bear fruit in 2009, when the actual launch is scheduled to occur.  At that point, “IRIS will enable U.S. and allied military forces with diverse satellite equipment to seamlessly communicate over the Internet from the most remote regions of the world,” according to Bill Shernit, President and CEO of Intelsat.

And several different corporations intend stick a finger in this (moon) pie.  “Satellite operator Intelsat will handle the management of the project with Cisco supplying the software technology,” reports The Register’s John Leyden.  “Denver-based Seakr Engineering has been picked to manufacture router hardware capable of surviving the extreme temperature and radiation hazards of space.”

The router hardware may also need to be hardened against nasty looks from Brazil or Greenland – IRIS could be drifting over those countries.  Intelsat only said that the satellite will be “in geostationary orbit at 45 degrees West longitude with coverage of Europe, Africa and the Americas,” however.

After three years of testing, IRIS will – assuming no intergalactic battles have popped up – be converted to “commercial use.”  If we’re to believe Dan Brown, Intelsat’s Vice President of Hosted Payload Programs, that could have a huge impact on the world.

“The IRIS architecture allows direct IP routing over satellite, eliminating the need for routing via a ground-based teleport, thereby dramatically increasing the efficiency and flexibility of the satellite communications link,” Brown said.

“IRIS is to the future of satellite-based communications what ARPANET was to the creation of the Internet in the 1960s.”