Internet Routing In Space Now, Venus Equilateral Station Later

Internet Routing In Space (IRIS) is a Department of Defense project to test the utility of using the Internet Protocol (IP) to manage data traffic between satellites in space. Cisco Systems Inc. and Intelsat General Corp. are among the companies selected by the DoD for the IRIS program.

Initial users of the system will be military; IRIS will serve as a "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.

"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."

Eventually, the IRIS system (or its technology) could be integrated in the Internet that we all use, moving packets through space to reduce delays. It would offer greater flexibility in routing packets, which is one of the great strengths of the Internet as a data network.

"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."

Science fiction fans already know that space is the place for communications. George O. Smith, in his 1942 novella QRM - Interplanetary, wrote about a fictional extension to the work of the Army Signal Corps. The main "switchboard" was located at Venus Equilateral Station:

The [signal] was hurled at the sky out of a reflector antenna by a thousand-kilowatt transmitter. The wave seared against the Venusian Heaviside Layer... [it] emerged ... as a weak, piffling signal...

... weak and as wobbly as it was, was taken in by eager receptors... it was dehashed, destaticked and deloused [and] was hurled out on a tight beam from a gigantic parabolic reflector.

Across sixty-seven million miles of space went the signal. Across the orbit of Venus it went in a vast chord, and arrived at the Venus Equilateral Station... beams from Venus Equilateral were directed at Mars and Terra...
(Read more about the Venus Equilateral Relay Station)

If this topic interests you, you might take a look at these stories - Mars Telecommunication Orbiter - Interplanetary Broadband and (unfortunately) Mars Telecommunications Orbiter Canceled. Read about the current story at Intelsat to Test Internet Routing in Space for the U.S. Military and U.S. military plans to put Internet router in space.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/15/2007)

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