Supercomputer for space

Engineering researchers at the University of Florida and Honeywell Aerospace are developing a computer projected to operate as much as 100 times faster than any computer in space today.

Expected to be launched aboard a NASA rocket on a test mission in 2009, the computer is needed to process rapidly increasing amounts of data gathered by advanced scientific satellites. It is also needed to help space probes make more rapid decisions by themselves, independently of their Earth-bound minders.

‘To explore space and to support Earth and space science, there is a great need for much more processing power in space,’ said Alan George, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and UF’s principal investigator on the project.

The UF-Honeywell computer aims to upgrade both satellites and probes with a novel design called the Dependable Multiprocessor. Funded by NASA’s New Millennium Program and the Florida High Technology Corridor Council, the goal is to cope with radiation from solar flares or other space events not through the physical hardening of components but rather through software that allows the computer to survive radiation-caused flaws or errors.

If plans go as intended, the completed computer is expected to fly aboard the unmanned ST8 rocket mission on a test mission in February 2009.