NASA, Intel, and SGI announced today that they are collaborating on a groundbreaking initiative that promises to vastly improve performance of the space agency's supercomputer operations, "enabling them to push the limits of scientific discovery."
Under a joint project dubbed "Pleiades," the three partners plan to develop a modeling and simulation system of unprecedented speed and capacity in the nation's space program. Specifically, they hope to produce computational performance of 1 petaflop (a quadrillion operations per second) by 2009 and 10 petaflops by 2012.
What does that mean, exactly? A task that would take six months to complete on a PC could be done in 1 hour by the Pleiades system, according to an Intel spokesman. Or, put another way, it's analogous to a 6-hour cross-country flight taking just 1 second.
For NASA, the benefits of the initiative are far more than just theoretical: Its predecessor, Project Columbia, allowed engineers to simulate emergencies in time to avoid space shuttle disasters. The partners say there is a green element to Pleiades as well, a goal to design new aircraft that are 70 percent more fuel-efficient than today's models and make only a fraction of the noise.