Today marks one year of operations onboard the the International Space Station (ISS) National Lab for Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Spaceborne Computer, in the first long-term demonstration of supercomputing capabilities from a commercial-off-the-shelf computer system on the ISS.
Since it was powered on last September, the Spaceborne Computer has operated nearly flawlessly through the space station’s microgravity conditions, unpredictable levels of radiation, and unique power and cooling conditions. Not only has the Spaceborne Computer had successful operations on the ISS, it also achieved the significant milestone of running one teraFLOP—more than one trillion calculations per second!
At the annual ISS Research and Development Conference in July, Hewlett Packard Enterprise was awarded the 2018 ISS Innovation Award in Technology Development and Demonstration for their innovative work on the Spaceborne Computer. Find out more in the below excerpt from an ISS360 blog post last month highlighting Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the Spaceborne Computer:
The Spaceborne Computer, which launched on SpaceX CRS-12, is being operated onboard the space station for one year while the research team monitors its power consumption and performance. The ability of supercomputers to perform autonomous operations could provide many potential benefits for advancing research on the ISS.
Space is a challenging environment for supercomputing because of its harsh conditions, including extreme temperatures and radiation exposure. An added challenge of bringing supercomputing to the ISS is that hardware must not only be durable but must also be lightweight.
To overcome these challenges, Hewlett Packard Enterprise developed a software-hardening process that protects hardware from the harsh conditions of space. During a high-radiation event, the software maintains hardware operation by lowering the computer’s power and thus speed. Traditional radiation-tolerant hardware is heavy and cannot achieve the same computing power as current supercomputers. However, the use of software to protect hardware results in a space-ready supercomputer that is both light and robust.
The Spaceborne Computer has been successfully operating on the ISS since September 2017 and is achieving more than one trillion calculations per second! That’s up to 30 times faster than a typical laptop and comparable to supercomputers on the ground.
Radiation-resistant supercomputers are beneficial in space, but such computers also have the potential to improve computing on Earth. Radiation bursts from solar flares can negatively impact computing on Earth for devices such as cellular towers and air traffic monitoring systems. Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s research on the ISS could lead to software to mitigate the impacts of radiation from solar flares on these ground-based computing systems.