Government to test Internet routing in space

Companies will work on Defense Department plan to determine feasibility of conducting military communications through a space-based router.

The U.S. government is moving forward with a project to test Internet routing in space. Companies will work on a Defense Department plan to determine the feasibility of conducting military communications through an Internet router located there.

Last week, Intelsat General, a subsidiary of the commercial satellite company Intelsat, announced that it will manage the project, known as IRIS, which was funded and announced in fiscal 2007 as a joint capability technology demonstration by the Defense Department. Other companies set to work on the endeavor include Cisco Systems, Concerto Advisors, SEAKR Engineering and Space Systems/Loral.

"IRIS extends the Internet into space, integrating satellite systems and the ground infrastructure for war-fighters, first responders and others who need seamless and instant communications," Intelsat General CEO Bill Shernit said in a statement. "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 Intelsat, the router would work like a computer processor in the sky and merge communications being received on various frequency bands. The router then would transmit signals to multiple users based on data instructions from a station on earth.

It is hoped that the router also would enable military units to communicate with each other across various forms of technology.

The Defense Information Systems Agency will be responsible for coordinating the use of the technology within government. The Defense Department chose the IRIS project from hundreds of other proposals. The space initiative will be funded as a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration.

The demonstration program is a revamped version of the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations initiative. ACTD was renamed and updated to better meet the challenges of the 21st century, address congressional concerns, and respond to recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office.

In April 2007, the Defense Department announced that it plans to work on 10 such demonstration projects. Two look to enhance maritime tracking and coordinated radio-frequency communications. Another project would work toward high-speed, wireless Web connections over long distances.

President Bush proposed $2.69 million to be spent on the demonstrations in fiscal 2008.