NASA, Hewlett-Packard to test supercomputer on space station

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s unassuming Spaceborne Computer will test supercomputing reliability with NASA’s help on the International Space Station. 


HAL seemed to have little trouble in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but here’s the problem with computers in space: a constant stream of cosmic rays seriously disrupt electronics.

That’s why Hewlett Packard Enterprise and NASA are testing how well supercomputing technology works on the International Space Station. A SpaceX rocket scheduled to lift off Monday will carry a machine called the Spaceborne Computer that will see whether software techniques can catch and correct errors induced by the radiation from our sun and galaxy that reaches low Earth orbit. HPE announced the work Friday.

The research ultimately could improve computers here on Earth — but also get humans to Mars.

“Mars is the next frontier, and we need supercomputing to get there. Mars astronauts won’t have near-instant access to high-performance computing (HPC) like those in low-Earth orbit do — the red planet is 26 light minutes round-trip away,” said Mark Fernandez, Americas technology officer at HPE’s SGI business unit. Supercomputers can be used for tasks like figuring out what to do if a spacecraft or Mars habitation has a system failure.

The Spaceborne Computer is nothing like the mammoth supercomputers on Earth, which take up rooms the size of basketball courts to tackle complex challenges like simulating the planet’s weather or the effects of aging on nuclear weapons. But it uses the same basic technology, including Intel processors and a high-speed interconnect to join…

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