HPE, NASA TO launch a supercomputer into space

HPE, NASA TO launch a supercomputer into space

Fernandez said HPE also envisions that scientists could eventually use an on-board supercomputer for data processing of their experiments on the station, rather than clogging the limited bandwidth between space and ground with raw data.

Sending a computer to space is, therefore, tricky.

On Aug. 14, the SpaceX-12, developed by Elon Musk's SpaceX, will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., sending a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) National Lab. The goal is to better understand how the space environment will degrade the performance of an off-the-shelf computer.

Dr. Eng Lim Goh, Vice-President and Chief Technical Officer of SGI at HPE (HPE acquired SGI, the former Silicon Graphics, Inc., a year ago for $275 million) is the principal investigator on this project. No modifications have been made to this space-bound HPE hardware, though - it is straight out of the factory - however HPE did create a "water-cooled enclosure" that acts as a buffer between the computer and the bit-flipping subatomic particles whizzing about the universe.

SpaceX and HPE will put a modest little supercomputer into space next week to test how computer systems operate in extreme conditions.

HPE is working with NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to build technology that can do just that.

For the year-long experiment, astronauts will install the computer inside a rack in the Destiny module of the space station. Our sister site, The Next Platform, has more details on the hardware, here.

Currently, numerous calculations needed for space research projects are still done on Earth due to the limited computing capabilities in space, according to HPE. It will have mirror systems on the ground as backup.

A mission to the red planet Mars needs to refine onboard computing resources which can extend the periods of uptime for the mission and to address these requirements, a significant improvement in the computer's viability in space is highly essential.

If humans do travel to Mars, they will face increasingly long communications delays-stretching out to more than half an hour-between Earth and their spacecraft.

"Such a long communication lag would make any on-the-ground exploration challenging and potentially unsafe if astronauts are met with any mission critical scenarios that they're not able to solve themselves", Andreoil said.

So astronauts will require that type of computing power locally on the spacecraft.

No, it's not another astronaut, but their first ever supercomputer!

The Spaceborne Computer isn't exactly a top-of-the-range supercomputer, but it will be the most advanced machine to be sent to space. It includes the HPE Apollo 40 class systems with a high speed HPC interconnect running an open-source Linux operating system. The software can manage real-time throttling of the computer systems to respond to radiation events and other external conditions. The differences between these two sets of numbers will give scientists an idea of the practical effects life in orbit has on commercially available computer equipment, as opposed to highly expensive specialized systems built exclusively for withstanding spaceflight.



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