Cisco has successfully tested a satellite-based router as part of its work for the US Department of Defense's Internet Routing in Space project.
As reported over on The Register
, the IRIS project aims to bring the same routing capabilities to satellites as is already available on terrestrial networks - an implementation of TCP/IP in space, basically.
The first test IRIS router, attached to partner Intelsat's IS-14 satellite which launched back in November, has undergone preliminary testing by Cisco and appears to be holding up against the elements in orbit well. In fact, the project is proceeding so smoothly that Cisco is happy to hand control of the device over to the DoD for military testing next month - before regaining control some time towards the end of April to being a twelve-month commercial use analysis of its own.
The move looks to eliminate the 'middle man' problem often found when satellites need to communicate with each other: because the satellites themselves have no Internet-style routing capabilities, devices which do not have a direct line of site need to communicate via ground stations - introducing a delay - or via a specially designed relay satellite. By bringing IP-based routing to satellites, Cisco is looking to allow satellites to route traffic for other satellites in the same way as Internet hosts route traffic for other hosts - bouncing the data from one to another until it finally reaches its ultimate destination.
The idea is certainly sound, and with satellites needing not-infrequent replacement it's not hard to imagine all satellites being fitted with Cisco IRIS routers within the next decade - allowing far faster communication between satellites than the current system, and potentially allowing telecommunications providers the ability to offer international calling and video conferencing without such maddening delays.
Are you impressed to see the Internet extending out into space, or will it take a router on Mars before you get excited? Share your thoughts over in the forums