Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has announced the launch of its edge computing system Spaceborne Computer-2 system into space to accelerate space exploration.

HPE is aiming to accelerate space exploration and increase self-sufficiency for astronauts by enabling real-time data processing with advanced commercial edge computing in space for the first time, it said.

NASA, SpaceX to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station on April 20

“Astronauts and space explorers aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will speed time-to-insight from months to minutes on various experiments in space, from processing medical imaging and DNA sequencing to unlocking key insights from volumes of remote sensors and satellites, using HPE’s Spaceborne Computer-2 (SBC-2),” the company said in an official release.

‘SS Katherine Johnson’

Spaceborne Computer-2 is scheduled to launch into orbit on the 15th Northrop Grumman Resupply Mission to Space Station (NG-15) on February 20. It will be available for use on the International Space Station for the next 2-3 years.

The NG-15 spacecraft has been named “SS Katherine Johnson” in honour of Katherine Johnson, a famed Black, female NASA mathematician who was critical to the early success of the space programme, HPE said.

The upcoming launch builds on the success of its predecessor, Spaceborne Computer, a proof-of-concept that HPE developed and launched in partnership with NASA in 2017 to operate on the International Space Station (ISS) for a one-year mission.

“The goal was to test if affordable, commercial off-the-shelf servers used on earth, but equipped with purposefully-designed software-based hardening features, can withstand the shake, rattle and roll of a rocket launch to space, and once there, seamlessly operate on the ISS,” it explained.

Covid-19 impact: Hewlett Packard Enterprise deploys cloud-enabled test labs, OPD centers in India

The more advanced Spaceborne Computer-2 is set to launch with sponsorship from the ISS National Laboratory.

The system is equipped with purpose-built edge computing capabilities powered by the HPE Edgeline Converged Edge system and HPE ProLiant server. It will help the system to ingest and process data from a range of devices, including satellites and cameras, and in real time.

Spaceborne Computer-2 will also come equipped with graphic processing units (GPUs) to efficiently process image-intensive data requiring higher image resolution such as shots of polar ice caps on earth or medical x-rays, HPE said. The GPU capabilities will also support specific projects using AI and machine learning techniques.

“The most important benefit to delivering reliable in-space computing with Spaceborne Computer-2 is making real-time insights a reality. Space explorers can now transform how they conduct research based on readily available data and improve decision-making,” said Dr Mark Fernandez, solution architect, Converged Edge Systems at HPE, and principal investigator for Spaceborne Computer-2.

HPE, through a collaboration with Microsoft Azure Space, will also connect Azure Cloud to space. It will provide researchers around the world running experiments on Spaceborne Computer-2 with the opportunity to “burst to the Azure cloud for computationally intense processing needs... also seamlessly transmit results back to SBC-2,” it said.

Some examples being considered by Microsoft Research include modelling and forecasting dust storms on Earth to improve future predictions on Mars, assessing liquid usage and environmental parameters involved in growing plants in space to support food and life sciences, analysing lightning strike patterns that trigger wildfires and advanced analysis of medical imaging using ultrasound on the ISS to support astronaut healthcare.

Submissions for research considerations on Spaceborne Computer-2 are now open.