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ibusinesslines.com August 22, 2017


HPE, NASA to Send New Supercomputer Aboard SpaceX

13 August 2017, 12:21 | Justin Tyler

SpaceX to soon launch super-computer to the International Space Station

SpaceX super-computer Space International Space Station astronauts Web Exclusive Spaceborne Computer Dragon astronauts

"By sending a supercomputer to space, HPE is taking the first step in that direction", he wrote. The ISS is the ideal place for private companies to test business ideas in microgravity, and NASA to test new technologies for future missions into deep space.

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. And like the smartphones and other "smart" infrastructure, we have here on Earth, a smart spacecraft will need a very smart and robust computer, This is why NASA has teamed up with Herndon, Virginia-based Hewlett-Packard Enterprise to run a year-long experiment using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) computer systems. Presently, the main command computers that operate the space station use Intel i386 processors.

The International Space Station is the testbed for studying the possibilities of long-haul human spaceflight. Semiconductor electronics are vulnerable to ionizing radiation, like that found in space, as it causes bits to randomly flip thus changing information and crashing programs. However, that is fine for the station because all of its critical systems are monitored around the clock by ground-based flight controllers who can work in real time with the crew to fix any problems that arise.

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.


"This goes along with the space station's mission to facilitate exploration beyond low Earth orbit", Mark Fernandez, HPE's leading payload engineer for the project, told Ars. Moreover, there are many areas in space where loss of signal occurs. Such a long communication lag would make any on-the-ground exploration challenging and potentially risky if astronauts are met with any mission critical scenarios that they're not able to solve themselves.

So astronauts will require that type of computing power locally on the spacecraft. This supercomputer, called the Spaceborne Computer, is part of a year-long experiment conducted by HPE and NASA to run a high performance commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computer system in space, which has never been done before.

"The Mission to Mars won't be possible until we develop sophisticated onboard computing resources that are capable of extended periods of uptime", Andreoli said. 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. Even without traditional ruggedizing, the system still passed at least 146 safety tests and certifications in order to be NASA-approved for space, Goh said. To accomplish this, HPE built a software system that can automatically adjust for environmentally-induced computer errors, while adjusting the Spaceborne's Computers performance based on current conditions. The SpaceX rocket has a launch window for Monday, August 14 at 12:31 EST.



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