Cisco Systems wants to put a router on every communications satellite.
The networking giant has already sent the first one into space. The company announced today that the router has successfully completed initial in-orbit tests, after being launched Nov. 23 aboard the Intelsat 14 communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit, 22,300 miles above the Earth.
The move is one small step in a bold, new Cisco initiative dubbed Internet Routing in Space (IRIS), which company executives say extends the same Internet protocol-based (IP) technology used to build the World Wide Web into the heavens. The long-term goal, they say, is to route voice, data and video traffic between satellites over a single IP network in ways that are more efficient, flexible and cost effective than is possible over today's fragmented satellite communications networks.
It's an exercise that's sparking intense interest in the satellite industry as well as in the U.S. military, telecommunications companies and other businesses that stand to benefit from the technology. Don Brown of Intelsat General, the world's largest operator of commercial communications satellites, says IRIS is to the future of satellite-based communications what Internet forerunner ARPANET was to the creation of the World Wide Web in the 1960s.
"There is a very strong potential for IRIS to revolutionize communications satellite architecture," says Brown, who is vice president of hosted payloads at the Maryland-based satellite operator. "IP changes everything."