HPC in space…

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You have to read that title with the same echo effect that the Muppet Show used for “Pigs in Space.” Anyway, here’s a mostly cool use of HPC, what with the space angle and all (from an article at Forbes)

In early 2007 the Chinese destroyed an aging weather satellite in orbit with one of its anti-satellite weapons (Wikipedia entry). A nifty technological achievement which created a real mess in orbit at about the same altitude as NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s (GSFC) Earth Science Constellation (ESC).

“Within 30 days of the ASAT test, every member of the ESC had debris from the destroyed satellite approach within 25 kilometers,” says David McKinley, an a.i. solutions project engineer for GSFC’s Conjunction Assessment Team. By June 2007, the first ESC risk mitigation maneuver as a direct result of the Chinese debris was performed by the Terra spacecraft, confirming that the Fengyun-1C break-up was having significant operational impacts on the ESC member missions.

What to do? High fidelity simulations over the next twenty years to assess long term prospects for damage and create mitigation plans. Which (sadly) yielded more bad news for the gnomes at NASA

a.i. solutions configured its commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) FreeFlyer(R) to perform in a clustered, high performance computing (HPC) environment. Using Microsoft(R) Windows(R) HPC solutions, FreeFlyer and 10 clustered computers; the 20-year analysis was completed in less than 3 days. The end result shows that the Fengyun debris continues to remain a threat to the ESC member missions in the near future. In fact, the number of conjunction threats the ESC missions experience is predicted to triple by the year 2027. Further analysis shows that even after 100 years, over 20% of the ASAT debris could still be in orbit. a.i. solutions has several white papers on the analysis available for download from their website.