Software-protected supercomputers: candidates for teams for missions to Mars and beyond


When we think of the implications of a long space voyage (meaning that we are talking about going beyond the Moon, for example to Mars) it comes to mind that would require a lot of energy or even prolonged physical preparation , But it would also have to take into account what computer equipment would be needed. A leap that may be solved by spacecraft carrying supercomputers on missions to Mars and other more distant destinations.
The idea is not something new or untested, since just the Space X CRS-12 rocket was leaving the International Space Station (ISS) with one of these supercomputers in order to complete an experiment related to the Time spent on teams that spend years in space. But the key is what protects this team , given that the bet is for a protection that is not physical as it has been so far.

Teraflops on the way to Mars

As explained in the release published by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, much of the calculations needed in space missions are currently made in the centers on Earth because the equipment of the ships are too limited. This slows down processes and makes them dependent on communications between one point and another, talking about 40 minutes for sending information and a response if you go beyond the moon.
In this way, sending a supercomputer in this type of longer trips is intended that there is no dependence on the calculations, for which it is necessary to improve the technology that currently integrate the aircraft. It will stay in the ISS for a year in order to check if both hardware and software can withstand in space, given the greater exposure to radiation, micrometeorites, subatomic particles, unstable power supply, etc.

The supercomputer that carries the CRS-12 is a Hewlett Packard approximately the size of two boxes of pizza, is called Spaceborne Computer and has a computing power of 1 Teraflop . It incorporates Apollo 40 class systems, a liquid cooling system and runs the Linux operating system.
The experiment is actually based on two units, the one being sent to the experimental space and having an identical one as control subject in mainland, specifically in Wisconsin. But the main difference with other systems of protection for the preservation of the equipment is that in this case the key is in the software , so that what will be seen is if it is able to protect the equipment just as it gets a physical protection (Such as the titanium bearing the Juno team).
NASA schematic drawing of supercomputer.
Protecting the supercomputer with software seek to save costs and lighten weight
As they explain, it is usual to protect equipment with physical resources (covers, etc.) against those dangers listed above, but this requires considerable investment in addition to adding weight. Hence the idea is to replace this extra hardware with software systems that regulate the operation of the supercomputer according to the conditions , still counting with the approval of NASA in equipment prepared to travel to space.

Better prepared to go further, but we do not know when we will go

The fact that the experiment lasts a year is no accident, since it is the approximate duration that is calculated to make a trip to Mars and the references are continuous to the hypothetical situation of sending a ship to that planet.


There are still no ongoing missions in this regard, although Musk already raised it in June and in detail. In fact, NASA's projects to travel to Mars at the moment would be somewhat layered after admitting that there is not enough funds to place the human being on the surface of the Red Planet as it had first been raised.
But in any case sending a supercomputer is a first experiment in view of what would be needed in a supposed trip to Mars, but in the future plans there are more shipments expected such as a computer with memory-centric computing (* Memory- Driven Computing, which was also presented by HPE last May) and other more advanced technologies and recent.

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