On Monday, August 14, 2017, SpaceX of Elon Musk sends its space cargo spaceship Dragon into space with a Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) supercomputer on board. This supercomputer, called Spaceborne Computer, is part of a year-long experiment by HPE and NASA to run a high performing commercial computer system in space, which has never been done before.
The goal is that the system works perfectly in the challenging conditions of space for a year – roughly the time it will take to get to Mars.
Many of the calculations required for space research projects are still being carried out on Earth because of limited space – based computer capabilities, which creates a challenge when transmitting data to the Earth, Space, and space.
Although this approach works for space exploration on the Moon or Low Earth Orbit where astronauts can be in near real-time communication with the Earth once they move farther and closer Of Mars, they will experience greater latencies of communication.
It may take up to 20 minutes for communications to reach Earth, then another 20 minutes for answers to arrive at the astronauts. Such a communication delay would make exploration in the field difficult and potentially dangerous if astronauts are faced with mission critical scenarios that they are not able to solve themselves.
Successful space exploration, Low earth orbit will only be possible after developing sophisticated onboard computer resources that will be able to extend the availability periods. For this to happen, the viability of space technology must be improved to ensure the survival of astronauts. By sending a supercomputer into space, HPE takes the first step in this direction.
As a general rule, for NASA to validate the sending of computers into space, systems must be “sturdy” or “hardened” to withstand the unique conditions of space. Indeed, radiation, solar flares, subatomic particles, micrometeorites, unstable electricity supply and irregular cooling are all factors that make the operation tricky.
This physical hardening takes time, money and adds weight. HPE took a different approach, and the system was “hardened” with software. It has also passed at least 146 safety tests and certifications in order to be approved by NASA to go into space.