One more SpaceX rocket mission is set to launch on Monday; which will carry HPE supercomputer and will send them to International Space Station. This device is officially called as “Spaceborne Computer.” More to it, it is a Linux-based computer which is purposed to be used in a year of NASA and HPE experiment. The companies intend to figure out whether or not a high-end and powerful hardware computer; with no hardware modification or customization can survive for a year in outer space atmosphere.
Why NASA And HPE Are Conducting This Experiment?
Dr. Mark Fernandez, who is a lead payload engineer at HPE side; explained that in most of the cases the computers used on the International Space Station need to be hardened. Subsequently, this requires an extensive hardware upgradations to be done high-performance computing (HPC) device. This results in a lot of additional costs, time and energy to be consumed. Moreover, one more factor which seems quite an unfortunate; the HPCs used on ISS are generations behind the computers used here on Earth. That requires so much of computing task to be shuffled off from the ISS to Earth; and ultimately ends up with round-trip transactions with the scientist or astronauts in space.
However, it works for now; because the communication is near-instantaneous between low-Earth orbit. It is where Earth itself and the ISS reside. But if you get out further to Mars; the communications could likely to take up to 20 minutes between the spacecraft crew and Earth. You might have a pretty much good idea about the significance of delay of that magnitude; if you have watched The Martian.
“Suppose there are some critical computations that need to be made; on the mission to Mars or when we arrive at Mars; we really need to plan ahead and make sure that that computational capacity is available to them; and it’s not three- or five-year old technology,” Dr. Fernandez told me. “We want to be able to get to them the latest and greatest technology.”
How HPE Supercomputer Would Serve in the Experiment?
Furthermore, Dr. Fernandez hopes that this experiment with HPE supercomputer would help him prove; that this Spaceborne Computer can be used instead of an extensive hardware modification; once the experiment becomes a success. Because if the experiment bears fruits; there would be no use of any additional customization to the hardware. Hence, this way they could cut off the corners of cost, time and energy. The experiment would hopefully prove HPE supercomputer to be software hardened to resist the privation of space; that includes temperature fluctuation and also radiation explosions.
“All of our modern computers have hardware built error correction and detection in them; and it’s possible that if we give those units enough time; they can correct those errors and we can move on,” Dr. Fernandez said.