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A cloud in space – The cloud above clouds. This is what a supercomputer in the International space station is aiming to bring. This would make ‘cloud computing’, possible to astronauts in space and enhance their ability to run data analysis in the orbit.
An Equipment known as ‘The Spaceborne Computer’ was delivered by a SpaceX cargo capsule to the space station in August 2017. After several tests over a year Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, who is behind this venture is ready to bring the cloud experience to astronauts for the first time- ‘A cloud above the clouds’, as it is said.
A supercomputer works as a cluster of computers and the one in the International Space Station has about 32 ‘cores’ and is the same as the one HP sells here on Earth. HP claims it to be 30-100 times faster than an iPhone or tablet.
What NASA required was that any supercomputer it procured should be able to function in the harsh environment of space in the midst of microgravity, radiation and power cuts that happen occasionally. The HP product ranked high in catering to all these needs.
The spaceborne computer is planning to run a year-long experiment of high-performance commercial off the shelf (COTS) computer system on the international space station. The system is trying to verify if the systems can operate properly by lowering their power and speed. This is to identify ways of using software to protect ISS computers without the use of a highly expensive, time-consuming, bulky protective shield.
This would enable astronauts to do scientific analysis in the space itself without having to transmit data to Earth before. The current connection between Earth and space is slow and mostly unreliable. Connections are often lost and there are gaps in the communication that lasts for several seconds. The new computer is meant to upgrade the experience just like having to rely on an old dial-up modem, says HP.
The new system promises on lower latency period, with higher bandwidth to move data without any loss of signal to get the data down to earth and be much reliable.
In the future with a journey to Mars, millions of miles away, the delay in communication can be more than 20 mins. It will serve to develop more deep space computers by testing such computers in space with a distance of about 400 km above Earth.
Scientists will test The Spaceborne computer for a few months and send it back to Earth at the beginning of next year.