The sky’s not the limit for the cloud: Microsoft is partnering with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to bring Azure cloud computing to the International Space Station.
HPE’s Spaceborne Computer-2, which is due for launch to the station as early as Feb. 20 aboard Northrop Grumman’s robotic Cygnus cargo ship, will deliver edge computing, artificial intelligence capabilities and a cloud connection to orbit on an integrated platform for what could be the first time.
This won’t be the first time NASA has connected the space station to cloud computing services. In 2019, for example, Amazon Web Services participated in a demonstration that used cloud-based processing to distribute live video streams from space.
It won’t be the first orbital go-round for HPE, either. In 2017, the company sent up its first Spaceborne Computer, which demonstrated supercomputer-level processing speeds in excess of a teraflop during the 20 months it spent in orbit.
Space-based computing services have come a long way since then, and now is a propitious time for the Microsoft-HPE collaboration. Just a few months ago, Microsoft extended its cloud footprint to the final frontier with Azure Space.
Mark Fernandez, the principal investigator for Spaceborne Computer-2 and solutions architect of Converged Edge Systems at HPE, said he was looking forward to working with Microsoft on Azure Space.
“HPE and Microsoft are collaborating to further accelerate space exploration by delivering state-of-the-art technologies to tackle a range of data processing needs while in orbit,” he said today in an Azure blog posting.
Spaceborne Computer-2, or SBC-2 for short, is built on the HPE Edgeline Converged Edge system, which is purposely engineered for harsh edge environments.
“Astronauts and space explorers deserve access to the best cloud computing technologies and advanced processing at the ultimate edge,” said Tom Keane, corporate vice president for Azure Global. “Sometimes analysis needs to be done immediately at the edge, where every passing moment counts, and other times the analysis is so massively complex that it can only be performed with the power of the hyperscale cloud.”
To combine the power of the edge with the power of the cloud, SBC-2 will be connected to Microsoft Azure via NASA and HPE ground stations.
Keane said HPE and Microsoft are evaluating SBC-2’s edge computing capabilities and developing machine-language models to handle a variety of research challenges — for example, how to anticipate dust storms that could bedevil future Mars missions, how best to grow plants for food in space, and how to use AI-enhanced ultrasound imaging to make in-space medical diagnoses.
SBC-2 will be used for research projects under the sponsorship of the ISS National Lab for two to three years — which is about as long as a mission to Mars is expected to last. Got an idea? Send it in. Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the ISS National Lab are taking requests.
For more information about proposing experiments that take advantage of Spaceborne Computer-2, send an email with your name, your organization’s name and mission, and a one-paragraph explanation of your proposed experiment and why you’re proposing it to [email protected].
Originally published at https://www.geekwire.com/2021/microsoft-hpe-team-connect-azure-cloud-international-space-station/ on .