NASA shows off new star supercomputer

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NASA shows off new star supercomputer

When it comes to shooting for the moon and Mars, NASA needs more than just vision and billions in funding, it needs a boost from an astronomically powerful supercomputer, namely one called Pleiades.

Pleiades, which sits at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility in Mountain View, California is the space agency’s key to solving some of the aeronautics’ most complex scientific and engineering problems, including how to get men to Mars safely.

The potent pooter is powered by 12,800 quad-core Intel Xeon processors, and the 51,200-core SGI Altix ICE 8200EX system this week rocketed its way into the Supercomputer Top500 list, with its 487 TeraFLOPS making Pleiades the world's fastest general-purpose supercomputer.

The system from Silicon Graphics (SGI) makes up part of NASA’s Project Constellation, with Pleiades doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to developing NASA's next-generation space fleet, from virtually testing re-entry options to designing safety systems.

Even worst case scenarios like catastrophic failures can be simulated by NASA boffins on Pleiades, helping the agency design systems and procedures to prevent their occurrence.

Pleiades will be keeping Columbia, the 2004 14336-core SGI Altix system and world's second-fastest computer company, although Rupak Biswas, acting chief of the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division notes Pleiades “can do six times the work that we could on Columbia".

NASA says it also intends to use Pleiades to model the evolution of galaxies, refine visualisation methods for the V-22 Osprey Tiltrotor aircraft and carry out complex calculations to determine how life first originated on Earth.
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