The National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) unveiled Thursday China's fastest supercomputer, which could rival the world's most powerful computing devices. The supercomputer, named Tianhe, meaning Milky Way, is theoretically able to do more than 1 quadrillion calculations per second (one petaflop) at peak speed. A single-day task for Tianhe might take a mainstream dual-core personal computer 160 years to complete, working non-top -- if it can last that long. NUDT president Zhang Yulin said the 155-ton system, with 103 refrigerator-like cabinets lined up on an area of about 1,000 square meters, is expected to process seismic data for oil exploration, conduct bio-medical computing and help design aerospace vehicles. China's national high-technology research and development program and the Binhai New Area, a major economic development zone in the northern port city of Tianjin jointly financed Tianhe, which cost at least 600 million yuan (88.24 million U.S. dollars). Tianhe's peak performance reaches 1.206 petaflops, and it runs at 563.1 teraflops (1,000 teraflops equals one petaflop) on the Linpack benchmark, which was originally developed by U.S. computer scientist Jack Dongarra and has become an internationally recognized method to measure a supercomputer's real performance in practical use. Zhang said the technical data of Tianhe had been submitted to the world Top 500 list, compiled by the University of Mannheim, in Germany, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of Tennessee in the United States. The next Top 500 supercomputer list will be released in November. The performance of Tianhe would have made it the world's fourth most powerful supercomputer in the most recent ranking in June. "I was shocked at the milestone breakthrough, which was beyond expectation," said Zhang Yunquan, a researcher with the Institute of Software of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and an organizer of the China Top 100 list, which was released at a national conference on high-performance computers Thursday. "I previously forecast China's first petaflop computer no earlier than the end of 2010," Zhang said
NASA Launches new rocket; Ares I-X
The 327-foot (100-metre) Ares I-X rocket resembled a giant white pencil as it shot into the sky, delayed a day by poor weather. Nearly twice the height of the spaceship it's supposed to replace - the shuttle - the skinny experimental rocket carried no passengers nor payload, only throwaway ballast and hundreds of sensors. The flight cost 445 (m) million US dollars.NASA's newest rocket blasted off on a brief test flight on Wednesday, taking the first step in a back-to-the-moon programme which could yet be shelved by the White House. The 327-foot (100-metre) Ares I-X rocket resembled a giant white pencil as it shot into the sky, delayed a day by poor weather. Nearly twice the height of the spaceship it's supposed to replace - the shuttle - the skinny experimental rocket carried no passengers nor payload, only throwaway ballast and hundreds of sensors. The flight cost 445 (m) million US dollars. It was the first time in nearly 30 years that a new rocket took off from Kennedy Space Centre. Columbia made the maiden voyage for the shuttle fleet back in 1981. Liftoff, in fact, occurred 48 years and one day after the first launch of a Saturn rocket, a precursor to what carriedastronauts to the moon during the Apollo programme. The Saturn V moon rockets were the tallest ever built, an impressive 363 feet (111 metres). Wednesday's launch, years in the making, attracted a large crowd. The prototype moon rocket took off through a few clouds from a former shuttle launch pad at 11:30 local time (1530 GMT), three and a half hours late because of bad weather. Launch controllers had to retest the rocket systems after more than 150 lightning strikes were reported around the pad overnight. Then they had to wait for interfering rain clouds to clear, the same kind which thwarted Tuesday's attempt. The ballistic flight did not come close to reaching space and, as expected, lasted a mere two minutes. That's how long it took for the first-stage solid-fuel booster to burn out and separate from the mock upper stage. But it will take months to analyze all the data from the approximately 725 pressure, strain and acceleration sensors. The maximum altitude of the rocket was not immediately known, but had been expected to be 28 miles (45 kilometres). Parachutes popped open to drop the booster into the Atlantic, where recovery ships waited. The upper portion of the rocket - all fake parts - fell uncontrolled into the ocean. Those pieces were never meant to be retrieved. Wednesday's launch represented the first step in NASA's effort to return astronauts to the moon. The White House, though, is re-evaluating the human spaceflight programme and may dump the Ares I-X in favour of another type of rocket and possibly another destination. NASA contends the Ares I-X will be ready to carry astronauts to the International Space Station in 2015, four to five years after the shuttles are retired. But a panel of experts said in a report to US President Barack Obama last week, that it will be more like 2017, and stressed that the entire effort is underfunded. The first Ares moon trip would be years beyond that under the current plan. No matter what happens, NASA managers said they will learn a lot from this experimental flight, even if it's for another type of rocket.