by Christopher Lindquist

National Lab Announces Space-based Supercomputer Plans

May 02, 20061 min

The Skynet Pre-Beta has been announced.

OK, not really. In the Terminator series of films, SkyNet was–depending on the movie–a computer, a network or possibly just software. What I’m talking about is how the Los Alamos National Laboratory is working to put dramatically more processing power in space. Forgive the stream-of-thought connection, but I’m a child of the 80s.

The release doesn’t provide a lot of details–not surprising given that the project is sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Nonproliferation Research and Development and the U.S. Department of Defense. But the gist seems to be to have a system powerful enough to quickly distinguish nuclear weapon test activity from “natural and man-made background signals.”

Rather than having to send data back to earth for analysis on terrestrial supercomputers, the new system–weighing just 40 pounds and using a mere 80 watts of power–would do the work in space at the rate of “1,000 Giga Operations-per-second (GOps)”, saving potentially valuable time. The system is reportedly being tested now.