Year: 2009

Type: Internet router

Sponsor: U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM)

Operator: Intelsat

Manufacturer: SSL

Spacecraft: Intelsat 14


In 2006, the U.S. Strategic Command(STRATCOM) challenged our industry to create and fly a geo-stationary payload based on Internet Routing in Space (IRIS) within three years. A partnership of industry leaders, including IGC and Cisco, met the challenge and the IRIS hosted payload was launched in November 2009 on board the Intelsat 14 spacecraft built by SSL. IRIS allows STRATCOM to integrate terrestrial and space communications nodes through a common network layer protocol, enabling U.S. and allied forces to communicate seamlessly and with increased efficiency and flexibility.

Satellites with on-board processing and regenerative capabilities have been successfully deployed in recent years, but an IP router as a communications network node in space is newly implemented. The foundation of IRIS had its roots in years of teamwork and experimentation between the DoD and the private sector. The IRIS hosted payload furthers the development of Concepts of Operation and Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for this network-centric capability. The Military Utility Assessment (MUA) conducted during the JCTD evaluated the benefit to the military of this internet node in space. The MUA results identified that the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard forces leveraging this capability will enhance military network-centric operations.

The use of IP technologies leverage open standards that allow faster integration of today’s disparate systems. The strategy behind IRIS is for a collaborative space-based version of the terrestrial service that allows cross-traffic flows. From the DoD standpoint, the IRIS JCTD Hosted Payload provided a collaboration with industry to examine, demonstrate and assess the utility of space-based routing and processing in support of Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational (JIIM) users. The IRIS JCTD also demonstrated a capabilities-based approach through the rapid deployment of space systems using commercial processes, schedules and space qualified technology.