Intelsat General Corp. announced that it has been selected for an industry-government collaboration to demonstrate the viability of conducting military communications through an Internet router in space.

The Department of Defense project to test Internet routing in space (IRIS) will be managed by Intelsat General and the payload will convert to commercial use once testing has been completed. The IRIS project is one of seven projects—out of hundreds of applicants—funded and announced in fiscal 2007 as a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) by the Department of Defense (DoD).

Intelsat is the first commercial satellite company to be awarded a JCTD program. The IRIS JCTD is a three-year program that allows the DoD to collaborate with Intelsat General and its industry team to demonstrate and assess the utility of the IRIS capability.

Cisco, the global networking leader based in San Jose, CA, will provide commercial IP networking software for the on-board router. In addition, SEAKR Engineering Inc. of Denver, CO, will manufacture the space-hardened router and integrate it into the IRIS payload. Concerto Advisors, a financial advisory firm based in Iowa City, IA, is organizing equity financing for a new company to provide the funds to design, build and operate the equipment used for the demonstration.

Following the JCTD testing period, Concerto’s affiliate will own the equipment and Intelsat will operate the equipment on Concerto’s behalf to provide services for government and commercial users. Intelsat previously announced that Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, CA, will manufacture the satellite scheduled to carry the IRIS payload. The satellite, IS-14, is set for launch in the first quarter of 2009. It will be placed in geostationary orbit at 45° West longitude with coverage of Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Representing the next generation of space-based communications, IRIS will serve as a computer 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.

The IRIS payload will support network services for voice, video and data communications, enabling military units or allied forces to communicate with one another using Internet protocol and existing ground equipment. The IRIS payload will interconnect one C-band and two Ku-band coverage areas.

The IRIS architecture and design allow for flexible IP packet (layer 3) routing or multicast distribution that can be reconfigured on demand. With the on-board processor routing the up and down communications links, the IRIS payload is expected to enhance satellite performance and reduce signal degradation from atmospheric conditions.

The Defense Information Systems Agency will have overall responsibility for coordinating use of the IRIS technology among the government users and for developing means of leveraging the IRIS capability once the satellite is in space.