As if beaming internet to Earth from space isn’t cool enough, “the cloud” is now headed far above the clouds to low Earth orbit, so astronauts on the ISS can have access to everything they would on terra firma.
The brains at NASA and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) have created a new supercomputer to provide high-performance computing (HPC) even 254 miles above the surface. Spaceborne Computer is the first commercial computer system to make it to the ISS. It has now landed on board after a year-long period of proving it was able to survive the potential ravages of space — not just the zero-G environment, but random power outages and radiation spikes.
Spaceborne has capabilities way beyond those of your average i-gadget. It can process one teraFLOP (a trillion floating point operations per second) and operate at anywhere from 30 to 100 times the speed of a smartphone or tablet. Instead of waiting for data to be transmitted to Earth and back, astronauts can now run analyses right where they are in space.
“Our mission is to bring innovative technologies to fuel the next frontier, whether on Earth or in space, and make breakthrough discoveries we have never imagined before,” VP & CTO of high performance computing and artificial intelligence Dr. Eng Lim Goh said.
Waiting for data to load is the bane of anyone who has ever used the internet, but it can mean that projects that take off in space have to touch back down on Earth before they can be processed. Spaceborne’s high-level computing will eliminate the need for communication with Earth. Getting everything done on board not only allows researchers to process high volumes of data at faster speeds, but factors out the delays that usually happen when data is transmitted to space centers back on the ground.
Spaceborne will also back up astronauts by preserving bandwidth that might be needed in case of an emergency. You don’t want to be caught in space with no way to communicate with the home planet, which is why the supercomputer could be a lifesaver when it comes to reaching Earth from Mars and deep space, where communication delays of up to 20 minutes can be expected from rovers and satellites. That could mean doom for human missions.
“The Spaceborne Computer is an excellent example of leveraging the International Space Station (ISS) for innovation,” said David Hornyak, ISS Technology Demonstration Research Portfolio Manager for NASA. “HPE’s Spaceborne Computer…demonstrat[es] capabilities similar to what NASA may need to pursue for exploration.”
If Spaceborne can think this fast now, just imagine how many more levels it will advance until we head to Mars.