Cisco Systems of San Jose, Calif., and PanAmSat’s Washington-based G2 Satellite Solutions subsidiary have teamed on a study contract for the U.S. Strategic Command to explore putting an Internet Protocol (IP) router and inter-satellite links on PanAmSat’s PAS-14 satellite.

Don Brown, vice president of military systems for PanAmSat G2 Satellite Solutions, confirmed the project May 18.

“The military has used satellite IP networks increasingly, and this study looks at the possibility of putting IP routing in space,” Brown said. “Conceptually, what this does is combine IP routing with inter-satellite links.”

Rick Sanford, director of the Cisco Global Space Initiatives group, said the companies were working conceptually on the project for about eight months before the award, and the study likely will be completed in June. After that, Sanford said he expects it would take approximately 24 months to build the actual equipment.

Brown referred questions about the value of the study contract to U.S. Strategic Command officials, who did not answer questions submitted via e-mail by deadline.

Seakr Engineering Inc. of Centennial, Colo., is serving as a subcontractor to Cisco for the development of the router’s processor, Sanford said.

Brown called the project an early implementation of many of the technologies envisioned in the Transformational Communications Satellite program. According to Sanford, whether laser or radio frequency technology will be used for the inter-satellite links will be determined at a later phase in the project.

“Let’s remember that this is a study, but it’s a study of very powerful potential architecture,” Brown said. “I think that the potential architecture would have incredible value for both military and commercial customers.”

Military customers benefit because they would not need to dedicate an entire satellite for military needs, Sanford said. IP-router-based communications also reduces ground station costs, and is helpful for the military’s efforts to provide more “on-the-move” communications, he said.

Cisco has previous experience with space-based routers, having flown one on the UK-DMC satellite in September 2003, as part of an international disaster-monitoring effort.