Two Hewlett Packard Enterprise servers sent to the International Space Station in August 2017 as an experiment have not returned to Earth, three months after their planned return. Together they build Spaceborne Computer, a Linux system that has supercomputer processing power. They were sent to see how durable they would be in space with minimal specialized treatment. After 530 days, they are still working.
Their return flight was postponed after the failure of the Russian missile in October of 2018. HPE senior architect Adrian Kasbergen said they could return in June of 2019 if everything goes well.
The company is working with Nasa to be "computer-ready" for the first manned flight to Mars, which is estimated to take place around 2030. The company is also working with Elon Musk's Space X.
Currently, 20 machines check the ISS return data on Earth for processing. This is feasible because it takes less than a second to return the data.
But on a Mars mission, the time required for a data trip will increase to more than 40 minutes, as the planet is millions of miles away. This means that data processing should be done on the spacecraft.
The three original computers at the ISS had cost 8 millions of dollars each and it took 10 years to build, Kasbergen told BBC News.
"Our servers cost thousands instead of millions of dollars," he told the Mobile World Congress.MWC) of 2019 in Barcelona, where the HPE presents a model copy of the Destiny Module of the ISS. The space computer is integrated into the upper limit of the real, said Kasbergen.
The servers were placed in an airtight box with a refrigerator connected to the ISS water cooling system. The hot air from the computers is led through the refrigerator to cool down and circulate back.
Mr Kasbergen said there were unpredictable problems with the supply of electricity, as well as some of the surplus solid state units. But he said the failures were addressed by the standalone management software that was part of the experiment. Devices should be inspected on Earth to learn what exactly is happening.