NASA unveils new research progress for human mission to the moon with supercomputer powered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise



  • NASA uses HPE-powered supercomputer to perform simulations on booster separation event and launch environment at Kennedy Space Center during lift-off for Artemis Mission in 2024
  • HPE also expanded NASA’s Aitken supercomputer with HPE Apollo systems for additional compute power

NASA’s Aitken supercomputer provides powerful modeling and simulation capabilities to support critical research for a safe and successful spaceflight for the next return-to-moon by 2024

San Jose, Calif. – November 17, 2020 – Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today announced that NASA highlighted new research progress to support the next human landing on the moon by performing complex simulations on NASA’s Aitken supercomputer, which is powered by HPE. New research, which includes understanding the booster separation event and launch environment at Kennedy Space Center
during lift-off, will help NASA’s engineers prepare for a safe and successful spaceflight as part of NASA’s Artemis mission set to launch in 2024.

HPE also announced today that it expanded NASA’s Aitken supercomputer with HPE Apollo systems that are purpose-built for compute-intensive modeling and simulation needs. The expansion of computational power, which will be operational in January 2021, supports NASA’s ongoing research involving computational fluid dynamics (CFD) that are critical to understanding aerodynamic events.

“At HPE, we are inspired by breakthroughs in scientific research that leverage our high-performance computing technologies. The researchers and engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center continue to push boundaries to advance space flight,” said Bill Mannel, vice president and general manager, HPC, at HPE. “We are honored to continue collaborating with NASA and play a role in a historical moment by further expanding NASA’s Aitken supercomputer with HPE Apollo systems to accelerate time-to-insight and safely land the first woman and the next man on the moon.” 

NASA’s Aitken Supercomputer Increases Computational Power and Drives Efficiency 

NASA’s Modular Supercomputing Facility, where its Aitken supercomputer is housed, at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California

NASA’s Aitken supercomputer was built by HPE in August 2019 to support NASA missions, including research for the Artemis program, a mission to land the first woman and next man on the lunar South Pole region by 2024.

NASA’s Aitken is housed in the first of 12 computer modules in the Modular Supercomputing Facility (MSF), jointly developed by NASA and HPE, to drive greater efficiency and significantly reduce electricity and water use. As a result, NASA’s Aitken supercomputer, during its first year of operation, consumed only 16% of the energy needed for cooling, saving over $100K in costs and 1.4 million kilowatt-hours. It also reduced water usage, used to cool the supercomputer, by 91%, saving over one million gallons of water per day.

The supercomputer will expand with HPE Apollo systems using 2nd Gen AMD EPYC processors to provide advanced compute power to support ongoing research. 

NASA’s Aitken Supercomputer Advances Research Progress for Return-to-Moon Mission

NASA’s Aitken supercomputer has already helped researchers make progress for the Artemis mission in the following areas:

Develop an Aerodynamic Database for Possible Events during the Artemis Booster Separation

Artemis-II vehicle view with simulating boosters that are 75 feet downstream of their stowed position. Image credit: NASA Ames Research Center 

NASA’s engineers need to understand possible events that could occur during booster separation from the core of the Artemis rocket during liftoff, which is critical to the safety of the crew and success of the mission. NASA considers the possibilities that the two solid rocket boosters (SRBs), developed for the mission, will strike the core center or each other during the separation event.

To simulate and model all variables during separation events during the Artemis mission, NASA has developed a database of aerodynamic data to showcase possible positioning of the boosters during separation. By applying computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools using NASA’s Aitken supercomputer and accounting for 22 different engine rocket plumes, which are moving hot exhaust gases, researchers were able to develop a database of 13 independent variables to model all possible in-flight events during booster separation. The project can be viewed here.

The expansion to NASA’s Aitken supercomputer will enable even more detailed and comprehensive databases to improve accuracy in analysis for a safer flight.

Understanding the Launch Environment at the Kennedy Space Center 

The Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) shows a simulation of exhaust gas flow from the Space Launch System (SLS) during launch. Image credit: NASA Ames Research Center

The Artemis mission is set to launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. NASA’s researchers need to understand the effects of ignition overpressure (IOP) and duct overpressure (DOP) waves that are caused by the rapid expansion of gas from the rocket nozzle during launch.

NASA’s Launch, Ascent, and Vehicle Aerodynamics (LAVA) team has been using NASA’s Aitken supercomputer to apply computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to simulate these waves and how they interact with the launch vehicle to examine any potential dangers to the mission.

The ongoing analysis helps NASA’s engineers make advancements to the design of the launch environment. With the expanded Aitken supercomputer, researchers will gain additional compute power to further improve time-to-solution for the launch pad redesign to accommodate the Space Launch System. The project can be viewed here.

To learn more about NASA’s research progress and view simulations, please visit

To learn more about HPE’s supercomputing solutions, please visit:

About Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the global edge-to-cloud platform as-a-service company that helps organizations accelerate outcomes by unlocking value from all of their data, everywhere. Built on decades of reimagining the future and innovating to advance the way we live and work, HPE delivers unique, open and intelligent technology solutions, with a consistent experience across all clouds and edges, to help customers develop new business models, engage in new ways, and increase operational performance. For more information, visit:


1 NASA’s research progress using its Aitken supercomputer is based on the first deployment of the HPE SGI 8600

AMD, the AMD Arrow logo, EPYC and combinations thereof are trademarks of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.


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