— Cisco Systems of San Jose, Calif., has extended the planned on-orbit demonstration period of its Internet Router in Space (IRIS) payload by one year so it will be able to further analyze the system’s capabilities, Rick Sanford, director of Cisco’s Global Space Initiatives group, said Oct. 7.

The IRIS program is a U.S. Strategic Command joint capability technology demonstration. The payload will be placed aboard Intelsat‘s IS-14 geostationary orbiting communications satellite and is slated for launch July 2009 aboard an Atlas 5 rocket, said in an interview during the 2008 Strategic Space & Defense conference here sponsored by Space News and the Space Foundation.

The IRIS payload is intended to demonstrate Internet routing on a satellite, and for the users on the ground, will operate similarly to a normal high-speed Internet connection, said.

Using a variety of different types of terminals, users will be able to transmit voice, data and video through the network.

The system, which is a demonstration of the capability, will have a maximum throughput of 90 megabits per second and is designed to support up to 300 users, each capable of downlinking at a maximum speed of 16 megabits per second. IRIS users can be prioritized to provide assured access to certain users, said.

The system also will provide mobile communications and Internet connectivity, said, but the performance characteristics associated with mobile users’ speed and terminal size still are to be determined.

The demonstration period was extended from three to 15 months to achieve a better understanding of the system’s characteristics and determine if there is a business case to put more of the payloads on orbit, said. Depending on the results of the study, another IRIS payload could be put on orbit as soon as late-2010. The company has had discussions with several other satellite operators in addition to Intelsat about hosting the next payload, he said.

If Cisco proceeds with future payloads, the business model will be focused on commercial customers, not consumers. The company has seen interest from industries like oil and gas companies that operate in remote locations where communications infrastructure is scarce.

Sanford also stressed the system is not designed for protected mobile communications and does not plan to compete with or replace any current or planned U.S. government space systems.