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article imageSpaceX to launch supercomputer to Space Station Monday

By Karen Graham     Aug 12, 2017 in Technology
On Monday, a SpaceX CRS-12 rocket will be launched from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, headed to the ISS. The payload will include an HP Enterprise (HPE) supercomputer, called the Spaceborne Computer.
The International Space Station (ISS) could be described as a large, international orbiting technology laboratory. 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.
One of the necessary technologies needed for deep space exploration is computing systems able to withstand the rigors of the harsh conditions found in space. The ISS at any given time has about 80 laptop computers, most of them being Lenovo T61P laptops spread throughout the space station.
Most of these Hardy Thinkbooks have a very short lifespan in space, some only lasting a few months. Regular supplies of laptops are sent each time a cargo vessel is launched. 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.
As the ISS de-orbits  the world will be in need a of a new space station; Axiom is taking on this ch...
As the ISS de-orbits, the world will be in need a of a new space station; Axiom is taking on this challenge, creating the first international commercial space station to host government astronauts, private companies, and individual explorers alike.
Axiom Space
Computer systems and deep space
Even though the ISS is using computer systems to handle operations within the station, all the station's critical systems are monitored around the clock by ground-based flight controllers who can work in real time with the crew if any problem pops up. But if we are going further into space, say, Mars, we will be facing longer communications delays, possibly stretching out to more than a half hour.
That 30 minutes could be critical in an emergency. 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.
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.
SpaceX s Falcon 9 is tuning out to be a real work-horse.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 is tuning out to be a real work-horse.
A science experiment for everyone
The experiment will include programming the COTS to detect and respond to radiation events by lowering operating speeds or ‘powering down’. In this case, during high radiation events, the electrical power consumption and, therefore, the operating speeds of the computer systems are lowered in an attempt to determine if such systems can still operate correctly.
The year-long test will also investigate the practical side of running and managing COTS while in orbit for several months to one year. This means the COTS will be monitored while running data intensive applications in a changing radiation climate.
Spaceborne Computer  isometric view.
Courtesy of NASA/Public Domain
Spaceborne Computer, isometric view. Courtesy of NASA/Public Domain
To accomplish these objectives, HPE recommended using four identical COTS in the experiment - with two of the systems installed aboard the ISS and two COTS, acting as controls, housed, operated, and monitored by HPE’s Engineering Department.
OK, to further tweak the experiment, one computer in each of the two pairs, one on the ISS and one on Earth, will stay in a maximum and steady power/performance state for the duration of the experiment, while the other’s performance is dynamically changed by raising and lowering the electrical power settings.
Each of the four computers will be given a name - Spaceborne Computer #1 (SBC-1) and Spaceborne Computer #2 (SBC-2); Earth-based Computer #1 (EBC-1) and Earth-based Computer #2 (EBC-2).
Spaceborne Computer installed in Express rack  inverters not shown.
Courtesy of NASA/Public Domain
Spaceborne Computer installed in Express rack, inverters not shown. Courtesy of NASA/Public Domain
The two COTS aboard the ISS will sit side-by-side in an ISS EXPRESS Rack locker in the Destiny Module. The COTS are not huge, by any means, being the size of two pizza boxes stuck together. But they have a computing speed of about 1 teraflop.
The SpaceX rocket has a launch window for Monday, August 14 at 12:31 EST. The launch can be viewed on the SpaceX YouTube channel, live.
More about space technology, International Space Station, Spacex, HP Enterprise, A 1Teraflop experiment
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