NASA Missions Featured at Supercomputing Conference 


Some of NASA’s most exciting achievements are being showcased at the 25th international Supercomputing Conference (SC12), scheduled November 10-16, 2012 in Salt Lake City, UT.

Highlighted accomplishments include the orchestration of the perfect Mars Curiosity rover landing, the Kepler mission’s discovery of new planets in the Milky Way galaxy, advances in our understanding of Earth’s weather and climate through high-resolution four-dimensional models, and the complex engineering calculations behind the next-generation Space Launch System (SLS).

"Behind the scenes of some of NASA’s most inspirational missions, our high-end computing resources and expertise are making it possible to gain insights into the nature of our planet and the universe, develop and mature the software tools and computational models required to design new aircraft and space vehicles to meet modern safety and efficiency standards, and accurately simulate the SLS launch environment and rocket ignition at liftoff," said Tsengdar Lee, high-end computing program manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA’s SC12 exhibit features demonstrations and talks by scientists, engineers, and technologists working to ensure the success of more than 30 featured agency projects. The exhibit’s centerpiece is a 10-foot-wide hyperwall displaying high-definition simulations of NASA research.

Many of the results showcased in the exhibit were enabled by the agency’s most powerful supercomputer, Pleiades, an SGI Altix system located at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. Pleiades recently was expanded to include 24 SGI ICE X systems containing a total of 3,456 Intel Xeon E5 Family (Sandy Bridge) processors (27,648 cores). The expanded system runs at a peak performance rate of 1.75 quadrillion computer operations per second (petaflops).

Among the hundreds of NASA projects Pleiades supports is the Kepler mission’s quest to find Earth-sized and smaller planets around other stars. Kepler’s enormous planetary transit searches — which look for the slight dimming of starlight caused by a planet crossing the face of its parent star — can be completed in less than a day on Pleiades, versus a month on Kepler Science Operation Center systems.

In addition to Pleiades, the Discover supercomputer at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS), located at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, more than doubled in capability this fall, with the addition of an IBM iDataPlex cluster incorporating one of the world’s first installations of Intel Xeon Phi Many Integrated Core co-processors. Discover now performs more than 1 petaflops peak.

Using Discover, a NASA scientist ran a global climate model for two simulation years at 10-kilometer resolution. This resolution is sufficient to reproduce regional weather within the evolution of seasonal climate. Applications of the simulation include studying the transport of aerosols — such as dust from deserts and carbon from fires — across continents and oceans.

Demonstrations in NASA's exhibit (booth #831), along with papers to be presented at numerous technical sessions, represent work by researchers at six NASA field centers: Ames Research Center; Goddard Space Flight Center; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA; Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX; Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA; and Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, in addition to various NASA university and corporate partners.

For more information about NASA's exhibit at the SC12 conference, visit:

For more information about NASA's high-end computing program, visit:

For more information about the SC12 conference visit: