Want to get to Mars with a modern computer? It’ll be tough, because the radiation in space wreaks havoc with electronics. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, though, has a new approach that’s showing promise as a way to cope with all those pesky protons blasting through our solar system. Spacecraft designers for decades have “hardened” computers to withstand the onslaught of cosmic rays and other radiation in space. Unfortunately, hardening results in computers that run more slowly and take years to develop and test. The International Space Station’s command computers use Intel 386SX processors first released in 1985, for example, and hardened chips from aerospace giant BAE Systems run only at about a twentieth the clock speed of modern laptop processors. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Hewlett Packard Enterprise instead accepts that computers will be thrown for a loop, but then uses software to detect problems, assess their severity and more gracefully recover. To test the approach, HPE pulled a standard server with dual Intel processors off its factory line and sent it up to the ISS for a year of testing. This machine, the Spaceborne Computer, has now been in orbit for most of that test run. “We’ve completed 345 days since in launch. It’s been working pretty well,” said Mark Fernandez, HPE’s Americas technology officer for high-performance computing. It’s a curious modern link between sci-fi challenges and more down-to-earth computing concerns. The purpose of the Spaceborne Computer is to develop technology that will work on a lunar… [Read full story]
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