Sci-tech

International Space Station to get first supercomputer next week

International Space Station to get first supercomputer next week

The launch of the supercomputer is a part of a joint experiment, conducted by the United States space agency NASA and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

This won't be the case with HPE's Spaceborne, which is constructed of standard, openly available hardware but loaded with custom software that can more easily be replaced, patched, maintained and otherwise tweaked as needed. These additions were built to ensure the supercomputer can withstand space-related problems like "radiation, solar flares, subatomic particles, micrometeoroids, unstable electrical power, irregular cooling", he said. But the "hardening" of software meant that the computer aboard the spacecraft was future-proofed to be able to provide the latest, fastest-moving software possible. And while the device is not exactly a state-of-the-art supercomputer-it has a computing speed of about 1 teraflop-it is the most powerful computer sent into space. This means the crew on a spacecraft will need to have a strong computer system and artificial intelligence capable of making critical course corrections or decisions within minutes in the event of an emergency. It will have mirror systems on the ground as backup.

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.

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While the approach works for space exploration on the moon or in low earth orbit, it would take up to 20 minutes for communications to reach earth and then another 20 minutes for responses to reach astronauts once they traveled farther out and closer to Mars, HPE said.

No, it's not another astronaut, but their first ever supercomputer! "By sending a supercomputer to space, HPE is taking the first step in that direction", he wrote.

A mission to the Red Planet will require highly advanced onboard computing that can run for lengthy periods without the risk of burning out - this is why this study HPE and Nasa are investing in improving today's technology to achieve that goal.

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The Spaceborne experiment could also have a knock-on effect back on Earth with any breakthroughs in the software technology potentially trickling down to consumer PCs for next-generation high performance computing. 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. While most of the computers are run on a Linux operating system and are connected to the operations of the ISS, there are some laptops that have Windows-based operating systems used for emails, social networking and the like. It will be fitted with a unique water-cooled enclosure for the hardware to address environmental constraints and reliability requirements of supercomputing 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.

Lift-off is targeted for 12:31PM EST (5:31 BST) on Monday, 14 August.

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