Press Release

NASA Relies on SGI Technology in America’s Quest to Successfully Return to Space

By SpaceRef Editor
July 7, 2005
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As Part of Agency’s ‘Return to Flight’ Initiative, NASA Centers Rely on Some of World’s Most Advanced Computers to Maximize Mission Safety

With the eyes of scientists and space flight enthusiasts gazing skyward once more, NASA centers from coast to coast are relying on technology from Silicon Graphics (NYSE: SGI – News) to help safely realize the agency’s first space shuttle mission in two years. The anticipated July launch of Space Shuttle Discovery marks the genesis of a renewed commitment to space exploration in the US – one aimed at returning man to the moon by 2020, and someday sending astronauts to Mars.

From finding ways to prevent ice from forming on fuel tanks and analyzing if and how debris may break off and collide with the shuttle surface, to what impact re-entry may have on a repair, NASA research and flight centers have spent years diagnosing and then overcoming the potential vulnerabilities unique to shuttle missions.

For the kind of compute, visualization and storage technology needed to drive NASA’s Return to Flight initiative, five NASA facilities have turned to SGI, which in 2004 rapidly manufactured and deployed NASA’s history-making Columbia supercomputer. Named to honor the crew members lost in the Feb. 1, 2003 shuttle accident, Columbia is a powerful asset in NASA’s Return to Flight effort, but it by no means is the only one.

Use of SGI technology to support NASA Return to Flight includes:

— Marshall Space Flight Center. Using SGI visualization and server systems, Marshall engineers are designing a heating unit to be installed on the expansion joints of the shuttle’s liquid oxygen line. The heating unit’s design hinders the buildup of ice during launch. Marshall scientists also are analyzing the shuttle’s propulsion systems on these systems.

— Michoud Assembly Facility. This government-owned component of Marshall Space Flight Center is using SGI technology to complete impact analysis simulations of foam, ice, and other debris and to model/analyze the design of the shuttle’s external tank.

— Kennedy Space Center. Kennedy’s Ice/Debris Facility, where NASA gets its first close-up look at launch films, uses a highly advanced SGI imaging system that allows engineers to analyze launch footage, frame by frame, in resolution that exceeds HD quality. NASA recently upgraded the lab’s display system, enhancing its ability to assess the effects of debris on the shuttle vehicle in their decision support center for future flights.

— Johnson Space Center. Engineers at Johnson used SGI servers to run sophisticated fluid dynamics calculations as part of their effort to assess the bipod closeout redesign, a piece of hardware that attaches the shuttle’s external fuel tank to the orbiter during liftoff. Results from these simulations are key inputs for the NASA-developed debris trajectory prediction codes.

— Ames Research Center. A full range of SGI technologies, including NASA’s Columbia supercomputer, comprised of 10,240 Intel® Itanium® 2 processors, are being used to support several of the agency’s Return to Flight activities. These activities include: investigation and analyses of cracks in the main propulsion system’s fuel line; aerodynamics studies of the shuttle’s ascent; debris transport analyses; development of an automated plotting tool for debris paths; and internal and external aerothermal fluid dynamics studies. The Columbia system is a vital resource for Return to Flight activities underway throughout NASA.

“For more than two decades, SGI and NASA have charted the very frontiers of computing,” said Bob Bishop, chairman and chief executive officer, SGI. “We’re proud to continue our collaboration at a most exciting moment in the agency’s history.”

In thousands of exhaustive tests and analyses aimed at modifying the shuttle vehicle to ensure safer lift-off and re-entry, NASA scientists worked with increasingly massive datasets. SGI computing, visualization and storage solutions were particularly helpful in running NASA’s complex scientific applications, due in large part to SGI’s third-generation NUMAflex(TM) architecture. This unique global shared-memory architecture enables researchers to hold large data sets entirely in memory, allowing for faster and more interactive data analysis, and resulting in more incisive conclusions.

SILICON GRAPHICS | The Source of Innovation and Discovery(TM)

SGI, also known as Silicon Graphics, Inc., is the world’s leader in high-performance computing, visualization and storage. SGI’s vision is to provide technology that enables the most significant scientific and creative breakthroughs of the 21st century. Whether it’s sharing images to aid in brain surgery, finding oil more efficiently, studying global climate, providing technologies for homeland security and defense or enabling the transition from analog to digital broadcasting, SGI is dedicated to addressing the next class of challenges for scientific, engineering and creative users. With offices worldwide, the company is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., and can be found on the Web at www.sgi.com.

NOTE: Silicon Graphics, SGI, Altix, the SGI cube and the SGI logo are registered trademarks and The Source of Innovation and Discovery is a trademark of Silicon Graphics, Inc., in the United States and/or other countries worldwide. Intel and Itanium are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in several countries. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.

CONTACT: Marla Robinson of SGI, +1-256-773-2371, or marlar@sgi.com, or SGI PR HOTLINE, +1-650-933-7777, or SGI PR FACSIMILE, +1-650-933-0283

SpaceRef staff editor.