In 2003, engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH, sent a miniature Cisco router into low Earth orbit on a satellite, proving that Internet Protocols can be used to communicate with satellites. “We wanted to put the Internet in space because it will make it far easier to design, build, test, and later operate new satellite systems,” said Phil Paulsen, project manager in Glenn’s Space Communications Office.

Before the team sent the device into space, they wanted to protect it from hackers who might steal or manipulate the data it was designed to collect. NASA worked with Western DataCom in Ohio to develop a secure router that encrypts data sent from the satellite to Earth. In the past three years, the technology has been spun-off as a tool for the military and first responders such as police and firefighters, including first responders from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who are using Western DataCom’s secure equipment to prepare for disasters.

Western DataCom’s Executive Travel Case sets up secure Internet connections for the U.S. Joint Forces Command. (Western DataCom)
The Army also used the router system in Operation Iraqi Freedom to enable military technical operations centers in Iraq to send secure high-speed voice, video, and data communications to the field through tactically deployed mobile units.

Other potential applications for this technology include personal computers and cell phones. Western DataCom is designing a small personal computer encryption card so that when users connect to the Internet wirelessly at a hotel or coffee shop, the card will shield outside the computer, protecting its hard drive from worms, viruses, and other attacks.

For more information, visit www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/technologies/ secure_networks.html.

The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.