Going to the Moon By Way of the Cloud – New York Times

Firefly Aerospace, a start-up based in the suburbs of Austin, Texas, is building a rocket to fly to the moon. No, this isn’t a remake of “A Grand Day Out With Wallace and Gromit,” in which the animated duo go to the lunar surface on a search for cheese; it’s a real company. It’s also an example of how the ubiquitous availability of high-performance computing through the internet has unleashed a global wave of creativity. The “cloud,” that fuzzy euphemism for networks of massive computer farms that anyone can access with a laptop and a credit card, has put even the wildest dreams within reach of people with enough know-how.

Building complex physical systems like semiconductors or sub- marines requires intensive computer simulations before commit- ting money to bending steel for a prototype, let alone putting space- craft into production. Those simulations require vast computations that were previously done on supercomputers available only to
governments or the most well-heeled corporations. “New rocket companies like Firefly, Virgin Orbit and SpaceX could not thrive when I was an engineer at Boeing, 15 years ago,” said Joris Poort, founder and chief executive of Rescale, a company that orchestrates high-performance computing in the cloud. “You’d have to have raised hundreds of millions of dollars at that time just to build the computer infrastructure to run the simulations.”

Click Here to Continue Reading