NASA’s latest supercomputer is a bit of a DIY masterpiece

NASA has announced its most powerful supercomputer to date, dubbed “Aitken”.

However, the new top dog isn’t a freshly built multi-billion dollar computing beast, but actually a modular upgrade of a machine first launched in 2019.

Named after famed American astronomer Robert Grant Aitken, the high-powered unit resides in the Modular Supercomputing Facility (MSF) of NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Facility (NAS) at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

What can it do?

The freshly upgraded machine has a peak performance of 13.12 petaflops, with a sustained performance of 9.1 petaflops, a huge boost from the maximum of 3.69 petaflops and a sustained performance of 2.38 of which she boasted when she first launched.

Improved stats give him a number 58 placing him on the Top500 list (opens in a new tab) of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.

The big performance boost comes from just four HPE Apollo racks, using AMD’s Rome architecture, based on the Zen 2 microarchitecture.

NASA says its scientists will use Atiken to run kinetic plasma simulations to learn more about the structures and dynamics of magnetic reconnection and how the Sun’s magnetic fields connect and disconnect with those of the Earth. Earth’s magnetosphere.

Additionally, aerospace engineers are expected to use Aitken’s processing power to support upcoming Artemis missions by simulating the launch environment at Kennedy Space Center.

But that’s not all NASA says, Aitken will be used by a range of other researchers in aeronautics, space exploration, earth science and astrophysics.

In addition to sheer raw power, the pumped-up Aitken also brings enhanced durability credentials to the table; using 14% less energy for cooling and reducing water consumption by 96%.

This is an exciting time for the High Performance Computing (HPC) industry, as this area is enjoying great attention and innovation.

Europe has just received its first JUPITER exascale computer, which resides in the Jülich Supercomputing Center in Germany and is expected to be activated in 2024. The machine’s power will be used for climate modeling, materials engineering, biological simulations and research on sustainable energy production.

Currently, the only exascale computer in the western world is Frontier, an AMD-powered machine housed at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) in Tennessee, USA.

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