And two for HPE: the American IT group will send its second mini supercomputer into space on February 20 as part of the ISS refueling mission, NG-15. Logically called “Spaceborne Computer-2”, this is the second experiment aimed at sending “terrestrial” processors and components into space within the international space station.
After a first successful experience with the Spaceborne Computer-1, which lasted 615 days, when HPE thought their machine would be bent “ in a few weeks », The engineers doubled the stake. And computing power, since with its two units – an Edgeline EL4000 and a ProLiant DL360 Gen10 – HPE will offer two teraflops to astronauts to process the data locally.
At the heart of these machines are not the chips of your gaming PC, but professional components such as Intel Xeon 8000 processors or an Nvidia T4 GPU, a chip dedicated to the acceleration of so-called “IA” algorithms (learning deep, inference, machine learning, etc.). Classic components that are much faster than traditional space chips.
Calculate directly from space
All this computing power will allow astronauts – who are mostly scientists – to obtain the results of their calculations more quickly. As we told you about in our topic on the emergence of AI chips directly within satellites, bringing computing power into space has enormous benefits. No more need to depend on data links with the ground, the total energy expenditure is less (transmission, storage, etc.), the reactivity is greater, etc.
Why not have done it before? Quite simply because the spatial constraints, which hurt computer chips (destruction, “bit skipping”, etc.) hitherto required processing and analyzing most of this data on Earth to be sure of their integrity. and to work quickly!
One of HPE’s secrets in the resistance of its computer, which is not physically shielded, lies in the software part: a horde of programs and algorithms correct and adapt in real time to possible errors, failures and other impairments caused by spatial conditions.
If the computing modules – “blade” servers that fit into the unit – obviously rely on protection against shocks and other monitoring tools against temperature differences, the choice to send unshielded chips is assumed. . These components cost less and perform much better than hardened electronic components. And adding material shielding (metal panel) is too heavy and bulky, and therefore far too expensive.
Unlike Spaceborne Computer-1, which was a pilot project, this time NASA is really relying on Spaceborne Computer-2: its mission is now two to three years. And the HPE calculator will be put on all the ISS files, from biological experiments related to the modification of DNA in space to the study of images of the Earth (analysis of the melting of the poles, etc.)