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Startup Plans Nuclear-Powered Data Centers on the Moon

Lonestar
(Image credit: Lonestar)

Modern datacenters consume loads of power, require extremely complex cooling, and are physically vulnerable to natural disasters and military conflicts. Datacenters 10 years from now will get even more complex, power hungry, and hot. There are several radical ways to solve power and cooling problems, but one startup plans to solve the problem by putting data centers on the Moon, and it already has two spaceflights booked to place equipment on the moon. The end goal is to have a network of servers on the moon that's fed by a nuclear reactor. 

As it turns out, Lonestar Data Holdings plans to establish a network of data centers on the Moon, reports DataCenterKnowledge. In fact, the company has already contracted with Intuitive Machines for its first two missions to the lunar surface and to build its first proof-of-concept data services payload, thus building the first data center on the Moon. The actual RISC-V-based machines will be built by Skycorp.  

"Data is the greatest currency created by the human race," said Chris Stott, Founder of Lonestar. "We are dependent upon it for nearly everything we do and it is too important to us as a species to store in Earth's ever more fragile biosphere. Earth's largest satellite, our Moon, represents the ideal place to safely store our future." 

There are numerous challenges with installing a data center on the lunar surface. Of course, the expenses associated with delivering the servers to the Moon are one of them, but powering the servers and connecting them to the Internet are two other challenges. 

It is possible to use solar panels for the proof of concept, but something more tangible would require a small nuclear reactor. Helium-3-based reactors will be used in the long-term, and there is plenty of Helium-3 on the Moon.

To connect these machines to the Internet, Lonestar will use a turnkey solution from Intuitive Machines, but for its longer-term plans, Lonestar has made the necessary spectrum filings for its missions with the ITU. One thing to keep in mind about using radios to connect servers on the Moon is that it takes about 2.7 seconds for radio waves to reach the lunar surface and return, which may be too long for the quality of service that we are used to today. 

One of the particularly interesting things about Lonestar's experimental data centers is that it plans to use Skycorp servers based on the RISC-V open-source instruction set architecture (ISA).  

"Skycorp is pleased to be able to provide our advanced multi-core RISC-V in space server architecture to the forward thinking team at Lonestar," said Dennis Wingo, CEO and Founder of Skycorp. "Our system is currently operating as the world's first web server on the International Space Station, and we look forward to supporting Lonestar in their groundbreaking Lunar application next year." 

While there are no fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters on the Moon, the planet has another major problem: The lunar surface is constantly bombarded by meteorites (since the Moon lacks atmosphere, they do not burn), and some estimates say that around 1.4 tons of meteorites fall onto the lunar surface every day. Installing servers on a continuously bombarded surface is a risk, and it is unclear how Lonestar plans to mitigate it.

Anton Shilov
Anton Shilov

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • -Fran-
    It's not THAT bad of an idea, TBH... For workloads that don't depend on latency and they're "fire and forget" types, this can be a good thing. I'm sure it'll be expensive to maintain though... Can you imagine upgrading those machines? LOL. "Honey, I need to upgrade some hardware on the Moon... No, I'm not trying to make excuses to not see your mother... Yes, it'll take 6 months... I don't sound happy, no...".

    The solar array they'll need would be massive as well. This wouldn't be cheap, but at least it makes a sliver of sense to me.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • gg83
    How do you protect the servers from debris that hits the moon? Mini-meteors and such? Maybe the servers will be buried?
    Reply
  • jp7189
    Wouldn't floating a datacenter in orbit have all these benefits without the latency and intermittent connectivity?
    Reply
  • gg83
    jp7189 said:
    Wouldn't floating a datacenter in orbit have all these benefits without the latency and intermittent connectivity?
    Maybe the access to helium-3 for the reactors? I'd like to learn more about it.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    What benefit is there to having this on the Moon?
    Cooling? Antarctica or sink in the ocean
    Solar power? There are multiple desert areas. Or wave energy from the ocean. Or temp diff in the ocean.

    There are a zillion drawbacks.
    Transmission time, radiation, UV, micrometiorites...


    I see this proposal as a pump and dump. "Gimme money!"

    50 years from now, maybe.
    Reply
  • ex_bubblehead
    I'd like to know where they get this "easy cooling" from. The moon has no atmosphere (to speak of), thus radiative cooling is virtually non existant. This is a very real problem that has to be dealt with on everything we've ever sent into space.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    Why am I reminded of this?
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    ex_bubblehead said:
    I'd like to know where they get this "easy cooling" from. The moon has no atmosphere (to speak of), thus radiative cooling is virtually non existant. This is a very real problem that has to be dealt with on everything we've ever sent into space.

    Yep. Sun side gets cooked, while the dark side freezes and no natural convection. Thus all heat has to be radiated in IR. It's a real challenge for some satellites.
    Reply
  • watzupken
    This to me is a case of trying to create a cool idea to make money, but without thinking of potential impacts. Just because the moon is not part of earth does not mean that if we lose the moon, we will be fine. Just because we have destroyed the earth, and now its time to destroy something else. Everything in creation serves its purpose.
    Reply
  • ex_bubblehead
    digitalgriffin said:
    Yep. Sun side gets cooked, while the dark side freezes and no natural convection. Thus all heat has to be radiated in IR. It's a real challenge for some satellites.
    And on satellites and planetary probes what direction, and how much in that/those directions, as good old Newton and his "equal and opposite reaction" comes into play (the Pioneer anomaly) ;)
    Reply