Sky Falling? IBM Helps U.S. Air Force to Be the First to Know

The Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC) has selected a powerful IBM SP supercomputer to identify objects in space, including old satellites, foreign spacecraft and unidentified objects. Installed at the MHPCC, the IBM SP assembles photos of objects tracked by Air Force telescopes, helping to ensure the nation’s defense, as well as the safety of NASA space flights.

One of the most powerful machines in the Department of Defense Research and Development computing arsenal, it is 40 times faster than the IBM "Deep Blue" supercomputer that defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. The new IBM supercomputer can process 480 billion calculations per second.

The IBM SP supercomputer is the electronic brain that supports the Air Force’s Maui Space Surveillance System (MSSS). The MSSS locates, tracks and images satellites using ground based telescopes. The images are then digitally enhanced by the IBM SP supercomputer, which has a peak processing capability of 480 billion calculations-per-second. The IBM SP uses complex algorithms to improve images significantly in only three to five seconds. Objects photographed might include errant communications satellites and space junk, as well as spacecraft launched by nations other than the United States.