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High-End Computing Program

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NASA's challenging mission to explore space and understand the universe and the Earth within it requires the agency to innovatively apply and extend humankind's most advanced capabilities, technologies, and knowledge. High-end computing is one such powerful leading-edge tool.

The mission of NASA's High-End Computing (HEC) Program is to:

Plan and provision high-end computing systems and services to support NASA's mission needs. Operate and manage these HEC resources for the benefit of agency users, customers, and stakeholders.

Our mission is guided by the vision that:

NASA's HEC resources are relied on as an essential and pervasive partner by the breadth of agency science, engineering, and technology activities, enabling rapid advances in insight and dramatically enhancing mission achievements.

Four top-level HEC Program goals will lead to accomplishing the mission and achieving the vision:

  • Provide effective production HEC resources and services to enable pervasive, timely, and significant mission impacts.
  • Infuse HEC into NASA's scientific and engineering communities.
  • Assure preparedness to meet NASA’s future modeling, simulation, and analysis needs.
  • Ensure that NASA HEC resources and activities are well-managed and wisely used.


NASA's mission needs are described at the highest level in the agency's Strategic Plan. The HEC Program is enabling achievement of all six Strategic Goals in the current (2014) plan, as illustrated by the following examples:

Visualization of Space Launch System rocket

Computational fluid dynamics simulation of a Space Launch System drift scenario with the vehicle plume impinging on the launch tower and platform. Visualization by Michael Barad, NASA Ames Research Center.

Strategic Goal 1: Expand the frontiers of knowledge, capability, and opportunity in space.

  • Simulating NASA and commercial spacecraft systems and subsystems supporting design and operational scenario evaluation.
  • Performing simulations supporting understanding of the space environment effects' on astronaut health.
  • Engaging industry partners in the use of NASA modeling and simulation systems architected and operated for aerospace applications.
  • Modeling the solar environment to better understand the causes of space weather as it affects the Earth and other planets in the solar system.
  • Modeling physical regimes ranging from the solar system to the universe to help understand observations.
  • Developing and refining theories of the evolution of the universe using computational modeling.
  • Simulating complete life-sustaining environments to accelerate their planning, design, and evaluation for long-term human presence in space.
  • Modeling and simulating instrument behavior, performance, and impact.
Visualization of global aerosols

Combining satellite observations with computer models reveals fire’s global reach. Appearing in this visualization of a 10-kilometer-resolution simulation are fires (red-yellow dots) and aerosols including dust (red), black and organic carbon (green), sulfate (white), and sea salt (blue). Research and visualization by William Putman, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Strategic Goal 2: Advance understanding of Earth and develop technologies to improve the quality of life on our home planet.

  • Simulating phenomena associated with systems in flight to accelerate aeronautics research, design, and validation.
  • Modeling the Earth and assimilating observational data to shorten the time from observations to answers for important, leading-edge science questions.
  • Analyzing massive amount of Earth observing satellite data at the global scale, extracting information and turning into knowledge and wisdom.
  • Offering advanced HEC education programs and internships and reaching out to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education and professional organizations through conference participation, supercomputing center tours, and presentations.

Strategic Goal 3: Serve the American public and accomplish our Mission by effectively managing our people, technical capabilities, and infrastructure.

  • Providing users with computing architectures well-suited to their applications and delivering a full-service HEC offering.
  • Striking a balance between upgrading HEC technologies and minimizing impact on users.
  • Maintaining a high level of system availability and providing uninterrupted access to computational resources and user data.
  • Determining appropriate shares of the resources for each NASA Mission Directorate and closely tracking usage to ensure maximum productivity.
Photo of Pleiades supercomputer

NASA’s Pleiades supercomputer includes thousands of latest-generation Intel E5-2680v2 (Ivy Bridge) processors. Photo by Nick Bonifas, NASA Ames Research Center.


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