April 17, 2007

Space-based router could speed military SatCom

By GAYLE S. PUTRICH, COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.
April 13, 2007
Source: http://www.c4isrjournal.com/

The Pentagon is partially funding an experimental, $80 million communications satellite that will move information using Internet data-packet standards, allowing direct access to a network via satellite for faster and more flexible communications than current connections.
For a year after it goes into orbit in the first quarter of 2009, the U.S. military will have full use of the routing capability of the satellite, dubbed IRIS for “Internet routing in space.”
Thereafter, sat services provider Intelsat will rent the bandwidth to commercial users. Most of the project’s cost will be borne by private investors corralled by Iowa-based venture fund Concerto Advisors. The satellite will be built by Space Systems/Loral, Palo Alto, Calif, and will contain router technology by Cisco Systems.
The partners have been in conceptual talks for a little more than a year with the U.S. Strategic Command and forged the IRIS deal about nine months ago.
“We are looking at a very, very rapid fielding,” said Rick Sanford, Cisco’s director of space and intelligence.
Any computing device that moves data using Internet standards will be able to use IRIS, Sanford said.

IRIS will interconnect one C-band and two Ku-band coverage areas, and allow for flexible IP (Internet Protocol) packet routing or multicast distribution that can be reconfigured on demand.
Currently, sending information from one remote user to another in an area of responsibility via satellite requires the first terminal to bounce data off the satellite and back to a ground station for routing. The ground station retransmits it on a different frequency to the satellite, which then sends it to the intended destination. With a router payload on a satellite, it can immediately select a channel used to send information where it needs to go, eliminating a round-trip visit to Earth and increasing transmission times.
IRIS takes the delay out of the satellite links and the routing process. It can also send information to multiple users with one ping, rather than making a new connection to the satellite for each IP address a user is trying to reach.
The demonstration project includes just one satellite, but Cisco and Intelsat are already planning for more, which will swap information using lasers.
Security will be the same as for other commercially launched systems; customers may choose to send encrypted data as well.
Because Strategic Command is already running IP networks in Iraq and Afghanistan, troops there will be able to tap into IRIS immediately once the satellite is on line, said Kay Sears, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Intelsat.
“There is an opportunity for real tactical applications to be explored immediately,” Sears said.
The IRIS partnership will allow the military to try out IP-based space routing, with an eye toward shaping its future communications networks.
It will allow Intelsat to look at the operational benefits and perhaps redefine its services.
For Cisco, the project may help shape ideas about concepts of operations when it gives input to the Boeing-led team that will bid this summer to run the U.S. Air Force’s Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT) program. TSAT is intended to use routers and lasers to provide mobile and fixed users up to 100 times the bandwidth of today’s MILSTAR communications satellites.
Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel, commander of the service’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said April 12 he had looked into the program and would have people under his purview helping to manage and monitor the year of testing.
“We’ll be looking at how all of this goes with TSAT in mind,” he said.
The firms’ executives said IRIS would not compete against the militarized TSAT concept.
“There’s no burn-down from IRIS to TSAT,” Sanford said, “but there is a great utility in looking at concepts of operation.”
“IRIS was not designed with TSAT in mind, but it could end up being very complementary,” Sears said. “The intent is actually a very commercial one that the military decided could be a fit for [the Defense Department], too.” •
E-mail: gputrich@defensenews.com.

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