The Aitken supercomputer - NASA's most powerful HPC system

The Aitken supercomputer - NASA's most powerful HPC system

NASA has always been on the cutting edge of technological advancement, and their most recent addition to their arsenal of high-performance computing (HPC) devices is no exception. The Aitken supercomputer, which was unveiled in late 2021, has become NASA's most powerful HPC system, setting the stage for breakthroughs in scientific research and space exploration.

The Aitken supercomputer, named for American mathematician and astronomer Robert Grant Aitken, is capable of completing over 3.69 petaflops, or 3.69 quadrillion computations per second. This makes it more than three times faster than the Pleiades supercomputer, which was retired in 2020.

Over 46,000 computing cores, 60 terabytes of memory, and a high-speed InfiniBand network form the Aitken supercomputer. Its processing capability is vital for NASA's mission-critical work, which includes modelling complex systems such as weather patterns, building and testing new space vehicles, and creating new space exploration technologies.
Astrophysics is one of the most fascinating applications of the Aitken supercomputer. NASA researchers are using the supercomputer to mimic and analyse the evolution of galaxies, star formation, and black hole behaviour. These simulations are critical for better understanding the world and the fundamental physical rules that govern it.

The Aitken supercomputer is also helping NASA's Artemis programme, which seeks to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. The supercomputer is vital in the design and testing of new spacecraft, as well as the development of new technologies that will allow long-term human exploration of the Moon and beyond.

The Aitken supercomputer is being utilised for many practical uses in addition to scientific applications. NASA, for example, is using the supercomputer to simulate and anticipate weather patterns, which is critical for astronaut safety and the success of space missions. The supercomputer is also being used to develop and optimise aircraft engine performance, which has the potential to make air travel more efficient and environmentally benign.

The Aitken supercomputer was created in collaboration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), a renowned provider of high-performance computing (HPC) equipment. HPE collaborated closely with NASA to develop and build the supercomputer, employing their high-performance computing skills as well as innovative hardware and software technologies.

One of the Aitken supercomputer's distinguishing features is its utilisation of HPE's Cray ClusterStor E1000 storage system. This system has a storage capacity of more than 8 petabytes, which is critical for storing the vast volumes of data created by the supercomputer. With a data transmission rate of up to 1.6 terabytes per second, the Cray ClusterStor E1000 storage system also provides industry-leading performance.

The Aitken supercomputer is housed at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, which is one of the world's premier research facilities for space exploration and scientific research. The supercomputer is part of NASA's larger HPC ecosystem, which includes a number of other high-performance computing systems located at different research centers around the country.

Finally, the Aitken supercomputer is a significant step forward in NASA's continued attempts to push the boundaries of scientific study and space exploration. Its immense processing power and advanced hardware and software technologies are critical for modelling complex systems, building and testing new space vehicles, and creating new technologies for long-term human exploration of the Moon and beyond. NASA is well-equipped to solve some of the most complex and difficult problems confronting humanity today, thanks to the Aitken supercomputer.