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HP and NASA Partner to Bring AI to International Space Station

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The International Space Station will soon be upgraded with a new computer specializing in edge computing and artificial intelligence. Hewlett Packard is partnering with NASA to provide the International Space Station (ISS) with a powerful edge computing device intended to bring augment the ISS with artificial intelligence.

NASA and Hewlett Packard recently announced that they would be collaborating to deliver a new edge computing device to the ISS. The device will help the ISS take advantage of AI systems and will be sent to the ISS later this month. The edge computing device being sent to the ISS is Hewlett Packard’s “Spaceborne Computer-2”, and it will be the first high-performance commercial computer to be used onboard the ISS.

According to Hewlett Packard, the Spaceborne Computer-2 will take advantage of edge computing technology to allow astronauts to process large volumes of data in just a few minutes, data that would have previously taken months to process. This is incredibly important, as operations aboard the ISS are data-intensive and only growing more data-intensive all the time. Astronauts aboard the ISS need to be able to leverage the power of AI to process big data in order to carry out the complex missions assigned to them. After the device is delivered to the ISS, it will see use for at least the next two years.

As described by a press release jointly issued by NASA and Hewlett Packard, the new edge computing device will “enable astronauts to eliminate 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”.

While supplying the ISS with Ai compatible devices is an important outcome for the project, there are other reasons for sending the Spaceborne Computer-2 to the ISS. The shipment of the device will help NASA gain valuable information regarding the survivability of commercial computers in space. The Spaceborne Computer-2 will need to survive the constant shaking and rattling of the rocker launch procedure, and continue to operate flawlessly in a zero-gravity environment. In this respect, the project is a continuation of the original Spaceborne Computer mission, which was designed to test if commercial computers could survive a trip to space. Finally, putting more reliable computing devices on the ISS is part of NASA’s bigger picture for the future of space travel.

As the press release explained, putting more reliable, modern computing devices on the ISS is a first step toward NASA’s larger goal of supper manned space travel to the moon, Mars, and beyond. Reliable communications will be required for these missions, mandating the use of the most modern communications and computation technologies.

Astronauts aboard the ISS will make use of the Spaceborne Computer-2 to process data from a variety of sources. Data will be taken from cameras and other sensors located on satellites and the space station itself. Spaceborne Computer-2 will make use of AI algorithms and GPUs to process various types of images, such as health scans of astronauts and images of the polar ice caps. Thanks to the GPUs installed in the Spaceborne COmputer-2, it will be able to train and utilize machine learning models onsite, which will eliminate the need to send the data back to the Earth for processing.

Shelly Anello, the general manager of converged edge systems at Hewlett Packard was explained via Fedscoop:

“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.”