Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t just taking over planet Earth, it’s also expanding its influence in space with a little help from HPE. The company recently unveiled plans to bring AI-enabled edge computing services to the moon via an Astrolab rover set to launch in 2026.
HPE initially brought edge computing and AI technology to space with the launch of Spaceborne Computer-2 (SBC-2), installed onto the International Space Station (ISS) in May of 2021. The SBC-2 packed a one-two punch with its Edgeline Converged EL4000 Edge system and the ProLiant DL360 server to provide a system capable of withstanding harsh space environments and enabling workloads across edge, high performance compute (HPC) and AI.
The SBC-2 was part of HPE’s “greater mission to significantly advance computing and reduce dependence on communications as humans travel farther into space, to the Moon, Mars and beyond,” according to an update the company posted last year. At the time, it announced the completion of 24 data processing experiments using the SBC-2. Those experiments spanned across healthcare, natural disaster recovery, image processing, 3D printing, 5G and AI-enabled solutions in an effort to “prove reliability in space.”
During HPE Discover earlier this month, company officials sat down with executives from AstroLab and Axiom to discuss various moves to expand this work. HPE Senior Director of Space Technologies and Solutions Norm Follett during the discussion outlined plans to “hitch a ride” on Astrolab’s Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover set to be launched on a SpaceX mission to the moon in mid-2026. In this case, the hitchhiker will be SBC technology attached to the rover, which will provide data services to both HPE and AstroLab customers.
“We’re actually able to take 1500 kilograms of customer cargo with us,” Astrolab CEO Jaret Matthews stated. “We anticipate that a lot of our customers are going to want to make use of the edge-computing service on our platform provided by HPE.” He explained that for the first few years of the rover’s expedition, data will be the priority export .
HPE’s edge-computing power will enable the rover to ship back fully-formed “insight” rather than pieces of a puzzle, Matthews continued. “If you can produce a refined map, rather than 1000s of images, you save yourself bandwidth,” he explained.
Follett emphasized that “there’s still some work to do” ahead of the mission. The two companies have a reservation agreement, but they still need to work through additional business details including how customers will take advantage of the service. They also still need to "solve a lot of technical challenges," he said.
“Right now, we are 254 miles up in space. We are at the edge; we have the most powerful computer to ever go into space. That’s not deep space; it’s low earth orbit. And we’re gonna go further,” Follett concluded.