Kubrick may have been off a few years off in terms of technological advancement when he shot 2001: A Space Odyssey, but with the help of Elon Musk and SpaceX, things are slowly catching up. SpaceX has sent a supercomputer to the International Space Station (ISS). Let’s hope it ends better than things did for the HAL 9000 in the classic film and book.
The delivery, via rocket, was made on August 14th. The rocket brought with it a Hewlett Packard Enterprise supercomputer unimaginatively named, Spaceborne Computer. The project is being carried out to test how well commercially available computers work in space, and to hopefully allow astronauts to go further in space.
Hewlett-Packard said Friday that the launch is part of a joint experiment with NASA that will track the supercomputer’s performance during a year in space. The goal is to ensure that supercomputers can operate without problems during extended periods in space, such as would be required for a year-long mission to Mars. So that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for space-age supercomputing.
The supercomputer contains two of HP’s Apollo servers. The hardware has not been modified to improve performance, presumably to serve as a sort of control for the experiment.
This experiment is part of a larger initiative at the International Space Station where it offers companies the opportunity to test ideas in microgravity, as well as allow NASA to test new technologies for future deep space missions—an initiative intended to curb the shrinking budget problems at NASA.
The hopes for the experiment are that the supercomputer would assist in long-range communications with mission control in space, and hopefully cut down on latency issues. Since no previous computer on the ISS has been equipped to deal with radiation aboard the space station, hopefully, the results of the test will reveal ways to increase the overall safety of the mission.