Microsoft and HPE team up to bring the cloud to space station

The International Space Station will soon be connected to Microsoft Azure. (NASA photo)

The sky is not the limit for the cloud: Microsoft is working with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to bring Azure cloud computing to the International Space Station.

HPE’s Spaceborne Computer-2, which is due to be brought to the station on February 20, aboard Northrop Grumman’s robotic cargo ship Cygnus, will incorporate edge computing, artificial intelligence functions and a cloud connection to orbit on an integrated platform deploy the first time.

This isn’t the first time NASA has connected the space station to cloud computing services. For example, in 2019 Amazon Web Services took part in a demonstration that used cloud-based processing to distribute live video streams from space.

It won’t be the first orbit for HPE either. In 2017, the company shipped its first space-based computer, which demonstrated supercomputer-level processing speeds of more than one teraflop in the 20 months it spent in orbit.

Space-based computing services have come a long way since then and now is a good time to work together between Microsoft and HPE. Just a few months ago, Microsoft expanded its cloud footprint to the last limit with Azure Space.

Mark Fernandez, Principal Investigator for Spaceborne Computer-2 and Solutions Architect for Converged Edge Systems at HPE, said he looks forward to working with Microsoft on Azure Space.

“HPE and Microsoft are working together to further accelerate space exploration by delivering cutting-edge technology to meet a range of computing needs in orbit,” he said in an Azure blog post today.

Spaceborne Computer-2, SBC-2 for short, is based on the HPE Edgeline Converged Edge system, which was specially developed for harsh edge environments.

“Astronauts and space explorers deserve access to the very best in cloud computing technology and advanced processing at the highest level,” said Tom Keane, corporate vice president of Azure Global. “Sometimes the analysis has to be done right away on the edge, where every moment counts, and sometimes the analysis is so complex that it can only be done with the power of the hyperscale cloud.”

To combine the performance of the edge with the performance of the cloud, SBC-2 is 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 address a variety of research challenges – such as how to anticipate dust storms that could threaten future Mars missions, and how plants Best Grown For Food Outer Space And How To Use AI Enhanced Ultrasound Imaging To Make Medical Diagnoses In Outer Space.

SBC-2 will be used for research projects under the auspices of the ISS National Lab for two to three years – roughly as long as a mission to Mars is expected to take. Have an idea? Submit it. Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the ISS National Lab are accepting inquiries.

For more information on suggesting experiments using Spaceborne Computer-2, send an email with your name, the name and mission of your organization, and a one-part explanation of your proposed experiment and why you are proposing it to spaceborne @ hpe. com.

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