Jan
21
2010

Cisco goes to space

Cisco Systems wants to put a router on every communications satellite.

The networking giant has already sent the first one into space.
The company announced that the router has successfully completed initial in-orbit tests, after being launched Nov. 23 aboard the Intelsat 14 communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit, 22,300 miles above the Earth.

The move is one small step in a bold, new Cisco initiative dubbed Internet Routing in Space (IRIS), which company executives say extends the same Internet protocol-based (IP) technology used to build the World Wide Web into the heavens. The long-term goal, they say, is to route voice, data and video traffic between satellites over a single IP network in ways that are more efficient, flexible and cost effective than is possible over today’s fragmented satellite communications networks.

It’s an exercise that’s sparking intense interest in the satellite industry as well as in the U.S. military, telecommunications companies and other businesses that stand to benefit from the technology. Don Brown of Intelsat General, the world’s largest operator of commercial communications satellites, says IRIS is to the future of satellite-based communications what Internet forerunner ARPANET was to the creation of the World Wide Web in the 1960s.

“There is a very strong potential for IRIS to revolutionize communications satellite architecture,” says Brown, who is vice president of hosted payloads at the Maryland-based satellite operator. “IP changes everything.”

What is IRIS?

IRIS is a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) with the Department of Defense (DoD) and is a three-year program that allows the DoD to collaborate with its Industry Team to demonstrate and assess the utility of IRIS.

Goals of the IRIS JCTD include:

  • Demonstrate collaboration with industry in leveraging the commercial acquisition processes to provide space-based IP network routing.
  • Gain knowledge on how to manage space-based IP networks, while demonstrating the advantages that space-based networking brings to the warfighter.
  • Demonstrate terrestrial standards-based on-board IP packet routing communications from a geostationary orbit satellite.

The IRIS demonstration will be evaluated through military exercises driven by mission scenarios that will represent realistic operational conditions. A set of key Critical Operational Issues will be identified, based on stakeholder inputs, in areas such as functionality, operational impact, interoperability and suitability. Upon completion of the JCTD’s military utility assessment, the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard and NATO forces could leverage this capability to enhance military network-centric operations.

References: