Ghosts of NASA satellite will haunt Johns Hopkins new data center

Johns Hopkins get new lab in former NASA building

johns hopkins data center
If researchers at Johns Hopkins forthcoming high-performance data center develop a mysterious, overwhelming urge to develop outer space applications, there may be a reason.

The university's new science and engineering lab might be haunted by former NASA scientists who once used the building as the mission control center for the NASA Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopy Explorer astrophysics satellite. According to the university, between 1999 and 2007, the 3,100-square-foot room served as the FUSE control center.  The satellite's mission ended in 2007 the spacecraft was decommissioned, leaving the control center vacant.

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But thanks to a $1.3 million federal stimulus grant from the National Science Foundation, the university will refurbish the building to house about four times as much high-performance computing power as they currently have, the school stated. The computing center stimulus grant can be used only for renovating the room and upgrading its networking systems, the school stated. The renovated room will also include upgraded connections to Internet 2, which can be used to share data with other US research universities and national labs. Construction is expected take about six months.

The school's current computing center, known as the Homewood High Performance Cluster (HHPC) contains nodes with 1200 Intel cores and 2 terabytes of RAM. The system are connected through infiniband technology to database servers with over a petabyte of storage, according to the school's Web site. 

The space will be reconstructed to accommodate the power supply, cooling system and backup protection required for high-performance computing modules. "It will have a full monitoring system that collects data on how well the equipment is operating, so that we can make the room even more energy-efficient,"  said Marty Kajic, facilities project manager for the university's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

"There's not enough cooling capacity to expand," said Mark Robbins, a physics and astronomy professor who chairs the cooperative's steering committee. Moving the existing cluster equipment to the former FUSE room and adding modules that researchers have been waiting to purchase will allow the university to take a major step forward, Robbins said. "The need for having more and more power for computing is one of the challenges that we face," he said in a statement. "It's what you need to be a major player in computational science and engineering research. This will be a state-of-the-art facility."

With the new space the university said it expects to research a variety of new applications.  For example, the facility will eventually also house Data-Scope, a new scientific instrument capable of 'observing' immense volumes of data from various scientific domains such as astronomy, fluid mechanics and bioinformatics, the university stated.

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