NASA Sets A Fire In Space For Safety

Posted: Jun 8 2017, 6:53pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA Sets a Fire in Space for Safety
Credit: NASA

NASA's fire experiments will help gain a better understanding of how fire behaves in space

NASA has staged yet another fire experiment under microgravity conditions of space. Named Saffire-III, the experiment is the third and final in the series of three fire safety experiments and builds on the data obtained during the previous two experiments. The series collectively aims at investigating how fire spreads or behaves in space.

Understanding how fire spreads in microgravity conditions is critical to ensure the safety of astronauts living in space. The findings will help astronauts to prepare for any disastrous situation while their stay at International Space Station or other long term missions in deep space.

The experiments are conducted in a Cygnus cargo vehicle after it has delivered supplies to space station. The experiment begins when supplies are are replaced with trash from space station and the ship is about to return to Earth. Each experiment is remotely operated by controllers on the ground. Fabrics and materials inside the cargo ship are burnt by igniting fire and the process is recorded through high definition cameras.

The first fire experiment, called Saffire-I, was conducted in June 2016 and it burnt cotton-fiberglass material. Saffire-II ignited a mix of nine different samples of materials used routinely on the space station. Saffire-III was also conducted under the same conditions as the first experiment except the higher flow rate on the flame. Researchers explain that increasing the flow rates will improve the accuracy of flame spread models used by NASA. Researchers were surprised to find that fire behaves quite differently in outer space. Flames in space occur at a lower temperature, lower rate and with less oxygen than it would have taken on Earth.

“The biggest surprise is how slowly the flame are spreading across the samples. Based on smaller samples in controlled burns on the space station, we expected flames on these larger samples to be up to three times faster than we’ve observed.” Gary Ruff who leads Saffire at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland said in a statement.

As all the fire experiments were conducted away from the space station, they posed no threats to the astronauts aboard.

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