Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is set to launch a commercial edge AI server to the International Space Station (ISS) that will be able to connect to Microsoft’s Azure cloud service.
The Spaceborne Computer-2 (SBC-2) combines an edge computing Edgeline Converged Edge system designed for harsh environments in the oil and gas industry with a DL360 ProLiant server based around the Intel Xeon Scalable processor running Linux with a graphics processor (GPU).
The first Spaceborne Computer was a proof of concept that commercial systems could operate in the ISS and it was used for a year. SBC-2 replaces the 120V AC supply with a direct coaction to the ISS 28V DC supply.
SBC-2 provides twice the computing performance to ingest and process data from a range of devices, including satellites and cameras, and process in real-time. A key difference is that the system has edge AI capabilities with the GPU and can connect to the Azure cloud back on Earth.
The GPU will be used to process image-intensive data requiring higher image resolution such as shots of polar ice caps on earth or medical x-rays as well as specific projects using AI and machine learning techniques. This eliminates longer latency and wait times associated with sending data to-and-from earth to tackle research and gain insights immediately for a range of projects. These include real-time monitoring of astronauts’ physiological conditions by processing X-Ray, sonograms and other medical data to speed time to diagnosis in-space.
There are hundreds of sensors that NASA and other organizations have strategically placed on the ISS and on satellites, which collect massive volumes of data that require a significant amount of bandwidth to send to earth to process. With the onboard edge AI computing, researchers can process on-board image, signal and other data related to a range of events, such as traffic trends by having a wider look at number of cars on the road and even in car parks, air quality by measuring level of emissions and other pollutants in the atmosphere and tracking objects moving in space and in the atmosphere from planes to missile launches
“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. “We are honoured to make edge computing in space possible and through our longstanding partnerships with NASA and the International Space Station US National Laboratory, we are look forward to powering new, exciting research opportunities to make breakthrough discoveries for humanity.”
“Edge computing provides core capabilities for unique sites that have limited or no connectivity, giving them the power to process and analyze data locally and make critical decisions quickly. With HPE Edgeline, we deliver solutions that are purposely engineered for harsh environments. Here on Earth, that means efficiently processing data insights from a range of devices – from security surveillance cameras in airports and stadiums, to robotics and automation features in manufacturing plants,” said Shelly Anello, General Manager, Converged Edge Systems at HPE.
“As we embark on our next mission in edge computing, we stand ready to power the harshest, most unique edge experience of them all: outer space. We are thrilled to be invited by NASA and the International Space Station to support this ongoing mission, pushing our boundaries in space and unlocking a new era of insight.”
Through a collaboration with Microsoft Azure Space, researchers around the world running experiments on Spaceborne Computer-2 can send bursts of data back to the Azure cloud for computationally intense processing and transmit results back to SBC-2.
Examples being considered by Microsoft Research include modeling and forecasting dust storms on earth to improve future predictions on Mars that can cover the entire red planet and decrease output of solar power generation that is critical to enabling mission essential energy needs. The researchers are also looking at assessing liquid usage and environmental parameters involved in growing plants in space to support food and life sciences by collecting data from hydroponics processes and comparing them with large data sets on Earth.
The Azure cloud processing can also analyze lightning strike patterns that trigger wildfires by processing a vast amount of data collected from 4K video-streaming cameras that capture lightning strikes happening across earth
The system is scheduled to launch into orbit on the 15th Northrop Grumman Resupply Mission to Space Station (NG-15) next week. The NG-15 spacecraft has been named “SS. Katherine Johnson” in honour of Katherine Johnson, a noted female NASA mathematician who was critical to the early success of the space program.
Submissions for research considerations on Spaceborne Computer-2 are open now at www.hpe.com/info/spaceborne
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