Beyond space travel: How HPE Spaceborne Computer-2 will help earthlings
In 2017, Hewlett Packard Enterprise partnered with NASA to deliver a supercomputer, called Spaceborne Computer-1, to the International Space Station, with the mission of bringing the edge of computing to space.
Now, it's set to launch Spaceborne Computer-2, a more powerful system, into orbit. The goal is to enable significantly greater computing power in space, not only to further space exploration but to advance practical research to improve lives on earth.
Please read: Computing on the edge of the final frontier
As the Feb. 20 launch of Spaceborne Computer-2 approached, Michael Roberts, interim chief scientist at the ISS National Laboratory, joined HPE Tech Talk host Robert Christiansen, vice president, strategy, for the Office of the CTO at HPE, to discuss the mission. They explored the objectives of the space station, what happens there, and how Spaceborne Computer-2 will deliver state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and edge computing capabilities to better support those activities—along with a whole new range of groundbreaking projects.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: Supercomputing aboard the International Space Station (ISS)
A 'beacon of humanity'
As Roberts explains, the ISS was established not only to conduct research and training in space but to bring together the space agencies of multiple nations "to design a spacecraft, design a human habitat off Earth, and then work together to assemble it in the space environment." As such, the space station serves as "a beacon for humanity and peaceful interactions between nations in space," he says.
In terms of furthering science, the focus of the ISS has shifted over the past few years, from primarily space exploration to practical applications "specifically focused on bringing benefit directly back to Earth," Roberts explains.
A key part of Roberts' role at the ISS National Lab is to facilitate that, whether a project originates from other government agencies, companies, or private individuals. "There are opportunities for folks from all walks of life and from multiple nations [to submit projects for the ISS]," Roberts says. "We even have payloads that are developed by elementary schools and high schools."
Captain's log: DNA sequencing, climate change research, and more
Activities on the space station include two kinds of tasks: those related to daily operations and maintenance and those related to scientific experiments and projects—from DNA sequencing and biomedical discovery to research on chemical reaction, climate change, and the performance of materials and systems in space.
Please read: Is there life in space?
To do this cutting-edge work, scientists need data—lots of it. And while they have the ability to generate it, "we're still deficient in our ability to process that data and analyze it in real time," Roberts says. "And that's a problem that is exacerbated by the space environment."
That's where HPE's Spaceborne Computer-2 comes in. Built on lessons learned from its predecessor, the new iteration of Spaceborne is optimized to withstand the 35 million-mile journey to the ISS and the extreme conditions it will need to operate in when it gets there. Its next-generation high-performance edge computing and AI capabilities will greatly accelerate the rate at which ISS-generated data can be analyzed, Roberts says, driving the pace at which new discoveries can be made.
He notes, "If we're able to do more in the space environment that doesn't require lots of crew time … the more quickly we'll be able to learn from the data that's collected in that environment and then use that to inform the next design or the next drug treatment or the next therapy."
Please read: One giant leap for edge computing
Ready for liftoff
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