SpaceX and HP Enterprise to Send Supercomputer to ISS Next Week

12 August, 2017, 23:23 | Author: Becky Perry
  • SpaceX is launching a supercomputer to the International Space Station

The Spaceborne Computer, developed by HPE is entirely based on the purported Apollo 40 class systems, which run on an open-source Linux operating system, integrated with a unique water-cooled enclosure.

As it nears the end of its second decade, the International Space Station is starting to hit its stride.

Called the Spaceborne Computer, the system is created to last for up to a year, which according to the company, is roughly the amount of time it will take to travel to Mars. The U.S.'s planned mission to Mars won't be possible until the space program and the IT sector develop sophisticated computing resources that are capable of extended periods of uptime in space conditions.

On Monday, August 14, HPE's Spaceborne Computer will blast off to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX CRS-12 rocket. 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. Our sister site, The Next Platform, has more details on the hardware, here. Most of these Hardy Thinkbooks have a very short lifespan in space, some only lasting a few months.

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The more distant spacecraft go in space, the more hard it is for astronauts and researchers on Earth to communicate because of latency, or delays in signals reaching their destination. Although this approach works fine during low-Earth orbit or moon mission, it is not suitable for deep space missions as it would take about 20 minutes for a message to reach a ground station and another 20 minutes for the response to reach astronauts if they get near Mars. The goal is to ensure that supercomputers can operate without problems during extended periods in space, such as would be required for a year-long mission to Mars, HPE said.

Generally, computers sent to space need to be ruggedized (hardened) to make them able to cope up the problems presented in space (subatomic particles, solar flares, radiations, etc.).

No, it's not another astronaut, but their first ever supercomputer! As a result, "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", Alain Andreoli, HPE's senior vice president of its data center infrastructure group, said in a blog post. Future phases of this experiment eventually will involve sending other new technologies and advanced computing systems, such as memory-driven computing, to the ISS once Goh and his team learn more about how the Spaceborne computer reacts in space. 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 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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