One of the biggest threats to deep space outposts is fire. The oxygen rich air inside the spacecraft can turn a small spark into a towering inferno with disastrous consequences. NASA scientists have been conducting experiments to ascertain how a fire behaves in the microgravity. In the second experiment of its kind, NASA scientists will remotely burn samples aboard US aerospace major Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft. The samples will be ignited after the Cygnus spacecraft exits ISS. The experiment will be conducted just before the spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere before it will burn out.
According to a statement from NASA, the OA-5 Cygnus spacecraft successfully detached itself from the ISS at 8.22 a.m. ET on November 21. The experiment has been dubbed as second in the Spacecraft Fire Safety (Saffire) series, and it will add to the data which has been obtained from the Saffire-I and expands the test portfolio with new materials.
The OA-5 Cygnus spacecraft delivered essential supplies to the ISS and will now release some NanoRacks CubeSats and then get on with the Saffire-II experiment for NASA’s Glenn Research Center before re-entering the atmosphere on Sunday, November 27. The Saffire–II test is to be performed within Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft during its 6th contracted cargo resupply mission for NASA to the space station in October 2016.
The experiment kit contains nine different samples which include a cotton-fiberglass blend, Nomex, and acrylic glass that is used for spacecraft windows. NASA wants to understand how fire spreads in a microgravity environment. This is even more important for the next big venture of sending men to Mars which can take many months of travel to deep space.
The Saffire experiment is a three part series which was conducted to investigate large-scale flame growth and oxygen use in space.