Cisco Stretches Into Orbit With Space Router

December 7th, 2010 by · 4 Comments

Ok, I'm a sucker for data stories in outer space, luckily they don't come around all that often.  Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO, news, filings) offered an update on its Internet Routing in Space (IRIS) testing.  They achieved two goals,  First, they remotely upgraded an IP router aboard a commercial satellite while in orbit.  And second, they completed the first VoIP call made without any terrestrial help - no ground based hubs along the way.

Eliminating ground infrastructure from the equation promises to make satellite networks more efficient and cost effective. And having IP in space would make it possible to add a vertical dimension to the internet itself, following in the footsteps of GPS.  Of course, it isn't exactly going to help the part of the sector currently going crazy over the lowest possible latency connections.  However, fitting the satellite guys more smoothly into the rest of the data world seems like convergence with a lot of future potential.

But there's one question I've gotta ask.  What, pray tell, makes a Space Router something other than a router that happens to be in space?  Radiation tolerance seems to be one key item, but are there other criteria other than special software?  I mean, usually what NASA sends into orbit is archaic but bug-proof.

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Categories: Internet Traffic · satellite · Telecom Equipment

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4 Comments So Far


  • Ted K. says:

    Tolerance for high latency connections – e.g. geo-sync. orbit delay of 119 ms per leg (nearly a quarter second round trip) on top of network overhead.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_of_light

  • bbs says:

    With WFN in the South Pole and Cisco in space, has anyone decided to finally light up Narnia, Middle Earth and Hogwarts? It wasn’t that long ago that tech VC’s were funding riskier bets.

  • Frank A. Coluccio says:

    Vint Cerf has long been a proponent and pioneer in developing Internet protocols designed for use in deep space. Here’s a snippet of a Wired article from January 2000 that begins to answer your question:

    Although IPN bears similarities to our own Net, it presents many engineering challenges. Explains Hooke: “Earth’s Internet has a problem the one in space won’t: gazillions of people trying to use it at once. Our problem isn’t supporting so many users but communicating in a very weird, noisy, long-delay communications environment.” Round-trip transmission time between Mars and Earth is 20 to 50 minutes, depending on the planets’ distance from each other – and that can seem like eons when trying to download a Pearl Jam MP3. To increase transmission speed, Hooke is working on protocols that ensure more efficient deliveries, and he’s improved two components of the wireless space backbone. First, the packet-delivery scheme won’t clog the system by resending missing packets (a luxury our own IPv4 standard affords). Rather, IPN will keep track of arriving packets and request missing ones. Second, IPN’s packet headers will probably consume one-tenth as much bandwidth as standard TCP/IP headers. Back on Earth, special gateways will translate between packets sent by IPN and conventional TCP/IP.”

    From: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.01/solar.html

    frank@fttx.org

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