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International Space Station experiments with HPE’s edge and AI solutions

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Thu 7 Apr 2022

Hewlett Packard Enterprise drives innovation at the extreme edge on the International Space Station, with 24 completed experiments.

The Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Spaceborne Computer-2 has completed 24 research experiments, accelerating time-to-insight from months and days to minutes.

The HPE Spaceborne Computer-2 (SBC-2), is the first in-space commercial edge computing and AI-enabled system to run on the International Space Station (ISS). The experiments involved real-time data processing and testing of new applications to prove reliability in space as part of an effort to increase autonomy for astronauts. These experiments spanned uses cases supporting healthcare, image processing, natural disaster recovery, 3D printing, 5G, and solutions enabled by AI.

"By introducing edge computing and AI capabilities to the International Space Station with SBC-2, we have helped foster a growing, collaborative research community that shares a common goal to make scientific and engineering breakthroughs that benefit humankind, in space and here on Earth," says HPE principal investigator, Spaceborne Computer-2, Dr Mark Fernandez. 

"We are proud of this ongoing work, which has already resulted in 24 completed experiments from various organisations, demonstrating new possibilities for space exploration and milestones for humanity."

HPE launched the Spaceborne Computer-2, in collaboration with the ISS National Laboratory, to space in February 2021 and was installed on the ISS in May 2021. The solution comprises HPE's edge computing solutions; the HPE Edgeline Converged EL4000 Edge system, which provides a rugged and compact system designed to perform in harsher edge environments, such as space, and the HPE ProLiant DL360 server, an industry-standard server, for additional high-performing capabilities to target a range of workloads, including edge, HPC, AI, and more.

SBC-2 is part of a larger mission to advance computing and reduce dependence on communications as humans travel farther into space to the Moon, Mars and beyond. The solution also demonstrates potential ways astronauts can increase self-sufficiency when processing data directly on the space station in real-time, bypassing longer latency and wait times that occur when relying on sending raw data to Earth to be processed, analysed, and sent back to space.

Since its instalment on the ISS, Spaceborne Computer-2 ran dozens of experiments by processing data at the edge, in real-time, for researchers with organisations developing breakthrough capabilities for space exploration such as Axiom, Cornell University, Comucore, Microsoft, NASA and Titan Space Technologies. 

Some of the experiments conducted by the Spaceborne Computer-2 include:

  • An experiment focused on increasing human safety and self-sufficiency using AI-enabled damage detection in astronaut gloves.
  • Automatic interpretation of satellite imagery after a disaster.
  • Enabling 3D printing in space with validated software.
  • Expanding network capability on the ISS with a 5G core prototype, Cumucore.
  • Developing software codes to calculate fuel requirements based on space travel distance.
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