Intelsat General Corp announced Wednesday that it has been selected for an industry-government collaboration to demonstrate the viability of conducting military communications through an Internet router in space.

The Department of Defense project to test Internet routing in space (IRIS) will be managed by Intelsat General, and the payload will convert to commercial use once testing has been completed. The IRIS project is one of seven projects funded and announced in fiscal 2007 as a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) by the Department of Defense.

The IRIS JCTD is a three-year program that allows the DoD to collaborate with Intelsat General and its industry team to demonstrate and assess the utility of the IRIS capability.

Cisco will provide commercial IP networking software for the on-board router. In addition, SEAKR Engineering will manufacture the space-hardened router and integrate it into the IRIS payload.

"IRIS extends the Internet into space, integrating satellite systems and the ground infrastructure for warfighters, first responders and others who need seamless and instant communications," said Bill Shernit, President and CEO of Intelsat General. "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."

The satellite scheduled to carry the IRIS payload, IS-14, is set for launch in the first quarter of 2009. It will be placed in geostationary orbit at 45 degrees West longitude with coverage of Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Representing the next generation of space-based communications, IRIS will serve as a computer processor in the sky, merging communications being received on various frequency bands and transmitting them to multiple users based on data instructions embedded in the uplink.

The IRIS payload will support network services for voice, video and data communications, enabling military units or allied forces to communicate with one another using Internet protocol and existing ground equipment.

The IRIS payload will interconnect one C-band and two Ku-band coverage areas. The IRIS architecture and design allow for flexible IP packet (layer 3) routing or multicast distribution that can be reconfigured on demand. With the on-board processor routing the up and down communications links, the IRIS payload is expected to enhance satellite performance and reduce signal degradation from atmospheric conditions.

"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," said Don Brown, Vice President of Hosted Payload Programs for Intelsat General. "IRIS is to the future of satellite-based communications what ARPANET was to the creation of the Internet in the 1960s."

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) will have overall responsibility for coordinating use of the IRIS technology among the government user community and for developing means of leveraging the IRIS capability once the satellite is in space.

Photo Courtesy of NASA.