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SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft to Launch First supercomputer to ISS Next Week

12 August 2017, 09:41 | Ross Houston

The Spaceborne Computer which will be launched on a Falcon 9 rocket will be tested for a year in space

SpaceX To Launch Super Computer To Space

A SpaceX CRS-12 rocket will launch from Kennedy Space Center to bring an HP supercomputer, the Spaceborne Computer, to the International Space Station next week: it's part of an experiment to see how long off-the-shelf computer components can survive the harsh conditions of space. He will keep watch on his brainchild, the Spaceborne Computer-on the mission very closely over the next 12 months. Each month, astronauts in the ISS receive new laptops as the atmosphere of space degrades the technology at an accelerated rate. It can hit about one teraflop in terms of performance, we're told, will mostly run benchmarking software on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and will be built out of two HPE Apollo Intel x86 servers with a 56Gbps interconnect.

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. Our sister site, The Next Platform, has more details on the hardware, here.

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. It will have mirror systems on the ground as backup.

While this 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 travel farther out and closer to Mars, it said. The further they travel from home the longer the lag or delay of transmission will be, which could be unsafe or even deadly if astronauts are met with mission critical scenarios they cannot solve themselves.

A "smart" spacecraft, however, will require a considerably more powerful and robust computer.

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"The Mission to Mars won't be possible until we develop sophisticated onboard computing resources that are capable of extended periods of uptime", Andreoli said.

No, it's not another astronaut, but their first ever supercomputer!

"To meet these requirements, we need to improve technology's viability in space in order to better ensure mission success". No modifications have been made to this space-bound HPE hardware, though - it is straight out of the factory - however HPE did create a "water-cooled enclosure" that acts as a buffer between the computer and the bit-flipping subatomic particles whizzing about the universe. This is why the experiment is critical in developing a high-performance computing system that can be relied upon. 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. 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.

The SpaceX-12 is scheduled to lift off on Monday, Aug. 14, in Florida.



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