NASA's Pleiades Supercomputer Ranks Among World's Fastest

WASHINGTON -- NASA's largest supercomputer is seventh on the TOP500
list of the world's most powerful, high-performance computers. The
announcement was made at the 26th International Supercomputing
Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

Pleiades, located at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field,
Calif., supports more than 1,000 active users around the country who
are advancing our knowledge about the Earth, solar system and the
universe. Pleiades is used to meet the computing needs on NASA's most
demanding modeling and simulation projects in aeronautics; Earth and
space science; exploration systems and technologies; and future space operations.

"We're really excited that Pleiades delivered nearly 83 percent of the
theoretical peak performance," said Rupak Biswas, chief of the NASA
Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at Ames. "This means our
science and engineering users get extremely efficient use of their
computing time on the system. Reaching the sustained petaflop per
second rate is a significant milestone for NASA and its industry partners."

Since last June, the NAS Division has implemented a series of
expansions to the system's performance capabilities. The team
recently added 14 new SGI(R) Altix(R) ICE 8400 systems so that
Pleiades now contains 23,296 Intel(R) Xeon(R) quad- and hex-core
processors (111,104 cores in 182 racks) that can run at a theoretical
peak of approximately 1.32 quadrillion floating point operations, or
calculations, per second. It achieved an official sustained rate of
1.09 petaflop per second using the LINPACK benchmark, the industry
standard for measuring a system's floating point computing power.

Pleiades runs on three generations of Intel-based processors with
varying memory per core across two generations of InfiniBand(R)
technology. The latest hex-core Intel(R) Xeon(R) 5600 (Westmere) and
earlier quad-core 5570 (Nehalem) processors run at a speed of 2.93
GHz, while the original Pleiades 5400 (Harpertown) quad-core
processors run at 3 GHz.

Since its installation in 2008, scientists have run large-scale jobs
on Pleiades to gain insight into Earth's ocean and climate
variability; reduce harmful emissions from aircraft; and design
future vehicles for planetary and space exploration. The system also
has been critical to supporting debris damage assessment on space
shuttle missions and gave managers data about critical decisions to
perform repairs and clear the orbiter for safe landing.

The NAS facility continues to feature the world's largest
InfiniBand(R) interconnect network with 11,648 nodes and more than 63
miles of cabling -- long enough to reach the "frontier of space" from
the surface of Earth. The double data rate, quad data rate and hybrid
cables interconnect Pleiades' nodes with mass data storage systems
and the hyperwall-2 visualization system. This allows scientists to
concurrently view and analyze their data while their computational
jobs run, often leading to the discovery of previously unknown
details in their ultra-large datasets.

For more information about the Pleiades supercomputer, visit:


For information about the TOP500 list, visit:


For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:



NASA Hosts Briefing To Preview Spacecraft Visit Of Large Asteroid

WASHINGTON -- NASA will host a news briefing at 2 p.m. EDT on
Thursday, June 23, to discuss the Dawn spacecraft's year-long visit
to the large asteroid Vesta. The mission expects to go into orbit
around Vesta on July 16 and begin gathering science data in early
August. The briefing will be held in the NASA Headquarters auditorium
located at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. NASA Television and the
agency's website will broadcast the event.

Dawn's visit to Vesta will be the first prolonged encounter to a main
belt asteroid and the first trip to a protoplanet, or large body that
almost became a planet. Observations will help understand the
earliest chapter of our solar system's history.

The briefing panelists are:
-- W. James Adams, deputy director, Planetary Science Directorate,
NASA Headquarters
-- Robert Mase, Dawn project manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL),
Pasadena, Calif.
-- Christopher Russell, Dawn principal investigator, UCLA
-- Carol Raymond, Dawn deputy principal investigator, JPL

Reporters may attend the event, ask questions from participating NASA
locations or join by phone. To obtain dial-in information,
journalists must e-mail Dwayne Brown at dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov with
their name, media affiliation and work telephone number by 11 a.m. on June 23.

For more information about Dawn, visit:


For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and schedule information, visit:


The briefing also will be carried live on Ustream, with a live chat
box available, at



NASA And DARPA Offer Students Chance To Support Future Missions

WASHINGTON -- NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) are offering high school students the opportunity to design
experiments that will be tested in space.

The 2011 Zero Robotics challenge is a continuation and expansion of a
science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education program
using bowling ball-sized spherical satellites aboard the International Space Station.

The Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental
Satellites, or SPHERES, are used inside the station to test maneuvers
for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking. The
three satellites that make up SPHERES fly in formation inside the
station's cabin. Each is self-contained with power, propulsion,
computing and navigation equipment. Test results support satellite
servicing, vehicle assembly and spacecraft that fly in formation.

The challenge requires high school student teams to write their own
algorithm to fly the satellites in the station. Teams must register
before Sept. 5 at:


Entries will be evaluated using simulations. Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass., will host a final ground
testing competition in October. The top 27 teams will have their code
sent to the station, where an astronaut will program the SPHERES
satellites to run their tests.

The Zero Robotics challenge, facilitated by MIT, continues the STEM
focus of the SPHERES program. The 2011 challenge expands on a pilot
program performed in 2009 and 2010. By making the benefits and
resources of the space program tangible to high school students, Zero
Robotics is designed to inspire future scientists and engineers.
Students will have the opportunity to push their limits and develop
skills in STEM. This program builds critical engineering skills for
students such as problem solving, design thought process, operations
training, team work and presentation skills.

MIT's Space Systems Laboratory developed SPHERES in 2006 to provide
DARPA, NASA and other researchers with a long-term test bed for
validating technologies critical to the operation of future
satellites, docking missions and satellite autonomous maneuvers. The
satellites provide opportunities to test a wide range of hardware and
software at an affordable cost.

For additional information about NASA and MIT's Zero Robotics program, visit:


For additional information about DARPA, visit:



NASA'S 2011 Innovations In Global Climate Change Education Awards

WASHINGTON -- NASA has awarded $7.2 million in cooperative agreements
to 14 minority-serving organizations across the United States to
enhance learning through the use of the agency's Earth Science
resources. The selected organizations include colleges, universities,
nonprofit groups and a community college.

The winning proposals illustrated innovative approaches using NASA
content to support elementary, secondary and undergraduate teaching
and learning. There is a particular emphasis on engaging students
using NASA Earth observation data, Earth system models, as well as
providing climate-related research experiences for teachers and
undergraduate students.

These grants support NASA's goal of engaging students in the critical
disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and
inspiring the next generation of explorers.

The 14 proposals will fund organizations in the District of Columbia
and in California, Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New
York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. The awards have
a two and one half-year period of performance and range in value from
about $230,000 to $825,000.

The cooperative agreements are part NASA's Minority University
Research and Education Program. For a list of selected organizations
and projects' descriptions, click on "Selected Proposals" and look
for "2011 Innovations in Global Climate Change Education" at:


For information about NASA's education programs, visit:



NASA Issues Announcement For Solar Electric Propulsion Studies

CLEVELAND -- NASA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking
proposals for mission concept studies of a solar electric propulsion
system demonstration to test and validate key capabilities and
technologies for future exploration missions.

Multiple studies have shown the advantages of using solar electric
propulsion to efficiently transport heavy payloads from low Earth
orbit to higher orbits. This concept enables the delivery of payloads
to low Earth orbit via conventional chemical rockets. The use of
solar electric propulsion could then spiral payloads out to higher
energy orbits, including Lagrange point one, a potential assembly
point in space between Earth and the moon. This approach could
facilitate missions to near Earth asteroids and other destinations in deep space.

Science missions could use solar electric propulsion to reach distant
regions of the solar system, and commercial missions could use solar
electric propulsion tugs to place, service, resupply, reposition and
salvage space assets. NASA's strategic roadmaps for exploration,
science and advanced technology all consider solar electric
propulsion a vital and necessary future capability.

NASA is examining potential mission concepts for a high-power solar
electric propulsion system demonstration. Flying a demonstration
mission on a representative trajectory through the Van Allen
radiation belts and operating in actual space environments could
reveal unknown systems-level and operational issues. Mission data
will lower the technical and cost risk associated with future solar
electric propulsion spacecraft. The flight demonstration mission
would test and validate key capabilities and technologies required
for future exploration elements such as a 300 kilowatt solar electric
transfer vehicle.

This Solar Electric Propulsion Demonstration Mission Concept Studies
announcement is open to all non-government United States
institutions, academia, industry and nonprofit organizations. NASA
anticipates making multiple firm-fixed-priced awards with a total
value up to $2 million. The deadline for submitting proposals is July 18.

NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland is managing the broad agency
announcement for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and
relevant technology activities for the Office of the Chief
Technologist. For more information about the announcement, visit:


For more information about NASA and exploration programs, visit:



NASA Schedules Telecon To Highlight Lunar Mission Results

WASHINGTON -- NASA will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT on
Tuesday, June 21, to highlight the results of the Lunar
Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission. A panel will summarize the
spacecraft's science findings and discuss the agency's plans for LRO's future.

Telecon panelists are:
-- Douglas Cooke, associate administrator, Exploration Systems Mission
Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington
-- Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist for exploration at NASA
-- Richard Vondrak, LRO project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

To participate, reporters must e-mail their name, media affiliation
and telephone number to J.D. Harrington at j.d.harrington@nasa.gov by
1 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

NASA will stream live audio of the teleconference at:


For more information about the LRO mission, visit:



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