Hewlett Packard Enterprise will send a supercomputer to space

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to be launched on Aug 14, 2017, will carry with it Spaceborne Computer to the space station.

HPE is working with NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to build technology that can do just that. Our sister site, The Next Platform, has more details on the hardware, here. That kind of agility simply wasn’t available for past space flights. Unlike most computers, it has not been hardened for the radiation environment aboard the space station. 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.

“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. It will have mirror systems on the ground as backup. In that situation, the astronauts are likely to become more reliant on more powerful computers and artificial intelligence to make critical course corrections or decisions within seconds or minutes.

“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”, Alain Andreoli, SVP and GM of HPE’s data center infrastructure group, wrote in a blog post.

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 risky if astronauts are met with any mission-critical scenarios that they’re not able to solve themselves, Andreoli said. “A mission to Mars will require sophisticated onboard computing resources that are capable of extended periods of uptime”. The large orbital laboratory offers private companies a chance to test business ideas in microgravity, serves as a testbed for astronaut health, and allows NASA to prove technologies for future missions into deep space. Moreover, there are many areas in space where loss of signal occurs. 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.

HPE’s system software will manage real time throttling of the computer systems based on current conditions and can mitigate environmentally induced errors”, he said. The system does also include a unique water-cooled enclosure for the hardware.