beowulf in space

Gerry Creager N5JXS gerry.creager at
Fri Apr 25 00:32:13 EDT 2003

One of the things I established when I was working on the old Space 
Station Freedon, in the early '90s, is that the space-rated CPUs, less 
the issues with radiation hardening and single-event upset recovery, 
were hardly different from good CPUs.  What we discovered was that the 
MIL-SPEC components differed little from the "industrial-grade" 
components, save in the degree of paperwork delivered with the device. 
And the costs.  Thus, we drove toward the use of the lower-cost, similar 
quality Industrial-Grade devices.

Now, for low- and mid-earth-orbit altitudes, the radiation environment 
is pretty harsh.  One should be cognizant of that environment, and model 
the potential for radiation induced transient problems.  If you're not 
ready for transient failures, and at that, failures that may or may not 
heal (aneal), you shouldn't use non-radiation hardened, commercial, 

I've not looked at the specs for rad-hardening and SEU performance.  If 
it's a commercial- as opposed to an industrial-grade processor, I'd not 
be too sure of reliability, either, although those specs have come up 
markedly over the last 10 years.


MIDN Sean Jones wrote:
> For reference the United States Naval Academy is putting up a PowerPC
> 405 SoC in PC/104 form factor up as the Command and Data Handling System
> of the MidSTAR I satellite slated for launch in March 2006.
> Sean Jones
> MidSTAR C&DH Lead
> Armada Cluster Asst. Admin
> On Thu, 2003-04-24 at 05:34, Jim Ahia wrote:
>>As I was reading this thread, some things came to mind that might add to
>>the discussion:
>>1 ) although Dells and Gateways are too heavy to lift into orbit,
>>pc-104 systems might be the solution.  3.6 x 3.8 inch pentium-class
>>motherboards with a single 5v power requirement make things much
>>smaller.  It is completely possible to have each node fit into the space
>>of a half-height CD-ROM drive.  Can anyone say "cluster in one box"?
>>2 ) Has anyone yet mentioned the possibility of mesh networks using
>>802.11 for robotics clustering?  Such networks of robots might make site
>>construction, ship construction, and mining feasible.  
>>Mining the surface of the moon is well documented to provide hydrogen,
>>oxygen, aluminum, silica, and titanium.  Launching fuel & materials for
>>spacecraft to an orbital construction facility might make more sense
>>than the billions we are spending now, if the mine, transport, and
>>construction are largely carried out by robotics under the oversight of
>>a resident cluster with ground-based monitoring.
>>Using a similar swarm of robots for site construction on mars prior to
>>human arrival can have a major impact on mission success.
>>If all robots use identical motion base and cpu, then 2 broken bots can
>>be cannibalized to return one working bot to service.  
>>If all of the robots that are currently recharging batteries are added
>>to the cluster as mains-connected nodes, then a cluster of sorts is in
>>effect to speed control processing of the 'hive'.  This is assuming that
>>the central site has the main power supply system online, be it solar,
>>nuc, whatever.
>>-Jim Ahia
>>-makenamicro at
>>Beowulf mailing list, Beowulf at
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Gerry Creager -- gerry.creager at
Network Engineering -- AATLT, Texas A&M University	
Cell: 979.229.5301 Office: 979.458.4020 FAX: 979.847.8578
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