Thales Alenia Space was running a SPARC Sun Fire 480R with two network boards and 4 GB of RAM on Solaris 5.8. They were using the system to support their final customer, the Centre National des Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency much like NASA. The SPARC was used to process data from IASI interferometer
However, Thales Alenia Space also has 1) to ensure that these processings can be applied to data from the orbiting interferometer during the whole IASI life, which is around 20 years, and 2) to compare the resulting computations to those obtained when IASI was on earth. Since it is risky and costly to maintain computers for decades, Thales Alenia Space envisaged to use a SPARC emulator but only if strong performance requirements are met, both in terms of speed and floating point precision. As the hardware aged, Thales Alenia Space knew they needed to do something to protect and extend the life of their applications. Each application on the SPARC system was tested, certified, and already in use with other satellites. Adopting an entirely new solution would require rewriting, retesting, and recertifying the applications, which for many organizations is prohibitively time-consuming and expensive.
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Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond