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Fire, meteor and gecko-gripper experiments en route to Space Station

by • March 22, 2016 • No Comments

At this moment, a spacecraft containing the means for astronauts to set fire outside the International Space Station is rocketing into outer space. The spacecraft is an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft, and it was commenceed courtesy of an Atlas V rocket of Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 22 at 11:05 p.m. EDT. In addition to the materials for the fire-starting experiment, the resupply craft in addition has 7,500 lb (3,402 kg) of extra
supplies aboard which include the gear for a total of 250 experiments to be conducted aboard the ISS in the coming months. Here’s a appear at a few of the highlights.


Understanding how fire spreads in space is key to assisting encertain the safety of craft and crew in all space undertakings going forward. That is definitely the goal of the Saffire experiments, which kick off with this resupply undertaking. Unlike a few of the other experiments heading up there, this one won’t in fact be conducted aboard the ISS, but pretty within the Cygnus capsule after it has delivered its cargo, been filled with trash of the ISS and detached of the station.

Once the capsule is a safe distance of the ISS, NASA can trigger the experiment of the ground, which consists of burning a piece of SIBAL cloth, made of fiberglass and cotton, within a box which meacertains close to 2 x 3 x 4 feet (of .6 x .9 x 1.2 meters). Contained within the box is a camera which can observe how the cloth burns in the microgravity environment of space. The experiment can last only a few hours, but the Saffire box can stay in orbit for seven days to manufacture certain all the data it gathers has been transmitted successful back to planet Earth. The Saffire box can and so reenter our atmosphere where it can be destroyed.

The next Saffire experiment can commence in June and can burn up nine various materials commonly utilized aboard the ISS.

“Saffire is all of gaining a advantageous belief of how fire behaves in space so NASA can create advantageous materials, technologies and procedures to reduce crew risk and increase space flight safety,” said Gary Ruff, Saffire project manager.

Meteor project

An image revealing where the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) rack is located aboard the ISS

We’re no strangers to seeing meteors enter the planet Earth’s atmosphere as shooting stars. Whilst we find them attractive, planet Earth-bound scientists wanting to analyze the chunks of dust and rock which burn up in the upper reaches of our atmosphere are hampered for the reason our planet’s ozone absorbs a few of the eundertakings the material gives off as it rockets earthward.

As part of Meteor, a visible spectroscopy instrument can be installed at the ISS’ Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) rack, a section of the space station reserved for observational experiments. The spectrometer, a device which determines the composition of material based on analyzing the energy it emits, can work during the night phases of ISS orbit, particularly during meteor showers. It has the advantage of being able-bodied to analyze meteors without the interference of the planet Earth’s ozone.

NASA hopes the experiment can assist us know how planets create by advantageous belief the organic nature of the particles bombarding our own space rock.


A sample of a few the material which can be contained in the tubes of the Strata-1 experiment

Regolith is the material which covers celestial bodies such as our moon, asteroids and the surface of Mars. It is various of soil here on planet Earth in which it does not contain any living material. NASA aims to study regolith in the micogravity of space in order to advantageous know its properties, which include how we can anchor into it and how it can interfere with spacesuits and other materials necessary for humans to explore space.

The Strata-1 experiment is sending multiple tubes of materials which simulate regolith to the ISS in a box with instruments which can record the consequences of masslessness on them.

“Simulant materials for Strata-1 include pulverized meteorite material of known dimensions distribution, glass beads of known dimensions distribution, regolith simulants made of terrestrial materials, and other much like materials selected to either answer specific scientific inquiries and/or for their fidelity to regolith which astronauts and/or hardware encounter on next NASA undertakings,” says the space agency.

Strata-1 can stay aboard the ISS for one year, at which time it can be packed up and shipped back to planet Earth.

Gecko Grippers

planet Earth-based means of adhesion don’t work so well in space — especially for repeated uses. Tape loses its stickiness and Velcro, the current binding material of choice in space, isn’t effortless to reposition plus it can release fibers into the environment and requires two sides to work.

To complete stickiness in space, NASA turned to the gecko. Geckos’ feet are covered in thousands of small hairs. When these hairs meet resistance on a surface, such as the gecko’s mass pulling it down while it clings to a vertical surface, van der Waals force comes into play. This force all but operates according to the principle which due to the uneven distribution of electrons in molecules, one side is always positive, while one side is always negative. When materials are pressed together, these positive and negative molecular sides attract and cause a type of stickiness.

Utilizing this thought, NASA made grippers showcasing pads with thousands of little hairs a la the gecko. When a shearing force is applied to the pads — which is, when they are forced together, the van der Waals forces come into play and the material stays attached to whatever it is placed upon.

Whilst NASA has may already been able-bodied to test these grippers out that successfully aboard their zero-gravity aircraft nicknamed the “vomit comet,” which provides masslessness for of 20 seconds, now they can be able-bodied to conduct longer tests in the zero-g environment of the space station. More information is on the market-bodied in the video at a lower place.

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Saturday, March 26.

Source: NASA

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