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[] BBC 13.04.07: "Iris" project_Pentagon to Put Internet Router in Space

Last Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007, 13:06 GMT 14:06

Net reaches out to final frontier

A programme to kick-start the use of internet
communications in space has been announced by the US

The Department of Defense's Iris project will put an
internet router in space by the start of 2009.

It will allow voice, video and data communications for
US troops using standards developed for the internet.

Eventually Iris could extend the net into space,
allowing data to flow directly between satellites,
rather than sending it via ground stations.

"Iris is to the future of satellite-based
communications what Arpanet was to the creation of the
internet in the 1960s," said Don Brown, of Intelsat
General, one of the companies who will build the

Arpanet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network),
the predecessor of the internet, was developed by the
United States Department of Defense.

Remote access

The Iris (Internet Router Protocol in Space) project
has been given the go ahead after winning funding from
the US Department of Defense, under its Joint
Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) programme.

The programme aims to develop advanced concepts and
put "innovative concepts into the hands of war
fighters in the field."

The Iris project is one of seven that has been given
funding this year. Others include development of smart
sensors and counter camouflage technology.

Iris is a three year programme to develop a satellite
platform and "space hardened router".

A router is a piece of hardware that directs packets
of information around a network.

The specially designed equipment will be developed by
network specialist Cisco while the geostationary
satellite, IS-14, will be built by Intelsat.

When launched in 2009 it will allow troops to
communicate over the internet from the remotest
regions from Europe Africa and the Americas.

"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, CEO of Intelsat general.

After initial testing the satellite will be opened up
for commercial use.

Cyber space

Launching Iris could also signal the beginning of the
development of the internet in space.

At the moment most satellites have to communicate with
one another through ground stations or via radio
signals to a relay satellite.

Deploying routers on satellites would allow them to
communicate directly with one another using common
internet standards, known as internet protocol (IP).

"The Iris architecture allows direct IP routing over
satellite, eliminating the need for routing via a
ground-based teleport," said Mr Brown.

It also raises the possibility of routinely
transferring data through the satellite network,
rather than ground based cables.

"This is a logical extension of radio communication
between satellites," said Paul Stephens of DMC
international imaging, a subsidiary of Surrey
Satellites in the UK.

Along with Cisco and US space agency Nasa, it put one
of the first routers in space onboard the UK-DMC
satellite, part of the Disaster Monitoring
Constellation (DMC) used for observing the Earth for
major disasters.

The DMC router uses the latest IP networking standards
to send critical images to ground stations for use by
rescue workers.

With IP becoming more prevalent for use in space, Nasa
and internet pioneer Vint Cerf have also investigated
the possibility of using internet technology across
the solar system.

Although some work has been carried out on the
necessary standards and protocols, no definite
schedule has been announced for this interplanetary

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