HPE and NASA hope Spaceborne computer will work in space for a whole year, paving the way for long range space missions
An HPE-built supercomputer will be sent into space next week, in what the company describes as a major step forward for building advanced technology for long-term galactic travel – including a manned mission to Mars.
The HPE Spaceborne supercomputer will be aboard the Dragon spacecraft when it is launched by the SpaceX CRS-12 rocket ahead of an experiment between the company, NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).
NASA requires any approved system to be ‘ruggedised’ to deal with radiation, solar flares, subatomic particles, unstable electrical power and irregular cooling. The usual approach is to ruggedise the hardware, but this is time consuming and expensive.
HPE space servers
HPE is using software to automatically adjust the system according to the environment and has added a water-cooled enclosure. Spaceborne also has system software designed specifically for space.
It is hoped the system will operate continuously in the harsh demands of space for a whole year Existing systems cannot cope with such an environment, meaning equipment such as laptops have to be replaced every month because degradation is accelerated.
At present, many of the calculations needed for space travel are performed on Earth and communicated back into space. While this is near instantaneous near Earth, it is impractical for long range missions with a lag of up to 20 minutes, a delay which could be the difference between life and death.
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“Such a long communication lag would make any on-the-ground exploration challenging and potentially dangerous if astronauts are met with any mission critical scenarios that they’re not able to solve themselves,” said HPE.
A manned mission to Mars will require significant on-board computing capabilities and it is hoped that any such project would help inspire new forms of technology, just like the Moon landing did in the 20th century.
In the UK, the government has pledged funding for the UK’s space technology industry, which is worth £13.7 billion and is growing at a rate of eight percent. The Space Industry Bill could see the country’s first commercial spaceports open, possibly in Cornwall.
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