HPE-Microsoft supercomputing collaboration on ISS speeds research into space travel health impacts

The International Space Station (ISS) has confirmed it’s utilizing its HPE-powered Spaceborne Supercomputer-2 equipment to evaluate the long-term health impacts of space travel on astronauts. 

The HPE edge computing machine has been aboard the ISS since February 2021, and was deployed to make it potential for researchers to make use of synthetic intelligence (AI) to progress efforts to launch a manned mission to Mars.

As detailed by Computer Weekly on the time of its launch, the microwave-sized machine is constructed round HPE’s Edgeline EL4000 converged edge computing gadgets and considered one of its ProLiant DL360 Gen110 home equipment, and is ready to run on the ISS for the subsequent two to 3 years.

The setup is designed to ingest knowledge from a variety of sources, together with satellites and cameras, for processing in actual time, and can also be outfitted with graphic processing items (GPUs) so it might deal with compute-intensive AI and machine studying workloads.

HPE has additionally partnered with Microsoft in order that – as and when wanted – it might use the burst capability of the Azure cloud to deal with computationally heavy workloads too.

The “cloud bursting” attribute of the supercomputer’s design has been put to make use of throughout an experiment designed to gauge how long-term publicity to radiation can have an effect on the health of astronauts, Microsoft confirmed in a blog post.

“The effects on a human body of lengthy sojourns in space aren’t fully known, making technology that allows frequent monitoring of changes over time especially important,” the corporate mentioned.

To that finish, astronauts collaborating in that experiment obtain their genomes and use the supercomputer to test their genetic code for creating abnormalities.

“Those [genomes] then get compared to the National Institute for Health’s database to find out whether there are any new mutations, and if those are benign and the mission can continue, or if they’re ones linked to cancer that may require immediate care back on Earth,” the weblog submit continued. “It’s the ultimate test of telemedicine that’s being eyed for remote locations around the world as well.”

As important as this work is, it additionally generates large quantities of information and requires giant quantities of processing energy, which is offered by Azure.

“Sequencing a single human genome, about six billion characters, generates about 200 gigabytes of raw data, and the Spaceborne Computer-2 is only allotted two hours of communication bandwidth a week for transmitting data to Earth, with a maximum download speed of 250 kilobytes per second,” mentioned Microsoft.

“That’s less than 2 gigabytes a week – not even enough to download a Netflix movie – meaning it would take two years to transmit just one genomic dataset.”

To side-step this, the supercomputer scours the genome knowledge onboard the ISS for anomalies that require additional investigation and sends simply these segments all the way down to the Azure cloud for additional evaluation.

“From there, scientists anywhere in the world can use the power of cloud computing to run their algorithms for analysis and decisions, accessing millions of computers running in parallel and linked by 165,000 miles of fibreoptic cables connecting Azure datacentres scattered throughout 65 regions around the globe.”

The supercomputer has been used to hold out 4 experiments thus far, Microsoft confirmed, with different tasks together with one designed to analyse crops grown onboard the ISS to see how they fare making an attempt to develop in a zero-gravity surroundings.

And that reality these experiments are being carried out utilizing “off-the-shelf” applied sciences from the likes of HPE and Microsoft is a part of a broader development that’s contributing in the direction of space travel and experimentation changing into more and more accessible to extra individuals, the corporate mentioned.

“Space is going through a major transformation period,” mentioned Steve Kitay, who heads up the Azure Space division at Microsoft. “It has historically been an environment dominated by major states and governments, because it was so expensive to build and launch space systems. But what’s happening now is rapid commercialisation of space that’s opening up new opportunities for many more actors.”

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