Supercomputer Aids NASA’s Journey to the Moon and Mars

SGI® Altix® ICE system
Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI)
Sunnyvale, CA

SGI has supplied NASA's Advanced Supercomputing facility at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA with Pleiades, the world’s third-fastest supercomputer. The 51,200-core SGI® Altix® ICE 8200EX system can generate a theoretical peak of 609 trillion operations per second (TeraFLOPS). Pleiades supplements Columbia, the 14,336-core SGI® Altix®system.

Pleiades has 12,800 Intel Xeon quad-core processors(51,200 cores, 100 racks) running at 487 teraflops on the LINPACK benchmark, the industry standard for measuring a system’s floating point computing power. Pleiades also features the world’s largest InfiniBand® interconnect network, enabling it to run NASA codes with minimal modifications. It also is compatible with standard desktop engineering workstations so users can migrate codes from their desktops.

Pleiades offers researchers unprecedented resources for a range of projects in support of all of NASA’s mission directorates,though most of the initial work is expected to support the development of NASA’s next-generation space fleet.Known as Project Constellation, the manned space exploration effort will involve years of sophisticated, high-fidelity scientific and engineering studies, from virtually testing re-entry vehicle options to designing safety systems. Researchers also will use Pleiades to simulate catastrophic failures so they can design systems and procedures to prevent problems that might threaten the safety and survival of astronauts.

Among the scientific and engineering projects accepted for computer time on Pleiades are extensive simulations of large computational problems for future space vehicle design; development of increasingly detailed models of large-scale dark matter halos and galaxy evolution; and running coupled atmosphere-ocean models to assess decadal climate prediction skill for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.NASA also is using Pleiades to refine visualization methods for the V-22 Osprey Tiltrotor aircraft, and conduct complex calculations to determine how life first originated on Earth.

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