International Space Station to get first supercomputer next week

The International Space Station is set to get its first supercomputer next week. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) said yesterday that it will launch a supercomputer into space on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on 14 August, as part of a joint experiment with the US space agency NASA, according to a Xinhua report.

The system, called the Spaceborne Computer, is designed to last for a year, which, according to the company, is roughly the amount of time it will take to travel to Mars.

"A mission to Mars will require sophisticated on-board computing resources that are capable of extended periods of uptime," Alain Andreoil, senior vice president and general manager at HPE's data centre infrastructure group, wrote in a blog post.

"To meet these requirements, we need to improve technology's viability in space in order to better ensure mission success. By sending a supercomputer to space, HPE is taking the first step in that direction," he wrote.

Currently, many of the calculations needed for space research projects are done on earth because of the limited computing capabilities in space, according to HPE.
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.

Dr Eng Lim Goh, vice-president and chief technical officer of SGI at HPE (HPE acquired SGI, the former Silicon Graphics, Inc, a year ago for $275 million) is the principal investigator in the project. He will keep watch on his brainchild, the Spaceborne Computer-on the mission very closely over the next 12 months.

For success, the system has to work seamlessly in the harsh conditions of space for one year-roughly the same amount of time it will take a spaceship to travel to Mars.