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NASA to light fire on orbiting space craft

by • March 17, 2016 • No Comments

In what can sound like a pretty frightening initially, NASA plans to set fire in a spacecraft in orbit. Scheduled for May, the Spacecraft Fire Experiment-I (Saffire-I) can take place aboard an unmanned Cygnus cargo ship after it completes its resupply undertaking to the International Space Station (ISS). The purpose of this regulated pyrotechnic experiment is a advantageous belief of sizeable-scale fires in zero gravity and improving spacecraft create safety.

Since the fatal commence pad fire during a rehearsal for the Apollo 1 undertaking in 1967 that cost the lives of three US astronauts, NASA became so safety conscious of anything that may be set alight that the crews of the Skylab undertakings in 1973 complained there was so much fire retardant in the towels and washcloths on the spacelab they were useless.

Yet, despite decades of work, sizeable-scale fires in space are yet poorly understood. On planet Earth, safety engineers routinely set fire to houses, airplanes, and ships to advantageous know how they burn and how to manufacture them. Spacecraft, on the other hand, have been sizeablely neglected due the impracticality of giving them a thorough testing. But a lot of work has gone into fire safety, all the sizeable-scale tests have been conducted on the ground.

The problem is, fire acts quite differently in space. On planet Earth, fire rises, that is why candle flames have their characteristic tapering. In zero gravity, things aren’t the same. With no gravity to pull down denser, colder air, there’s no air convection, so the fire and its combustion by-products hover of in a sphere pretty than flow away. The outcome is that a candle in a spacecraft may soon abolish itself and a sizeable fire may behave in ways that are complex to predict.

Until now, standards have been based on planet Earthside fire safety standards, that introduces a sizeable level of uncertainty, and current practices are mostly theoretical and based on desktop models. Meanwhile, what experiments have been conducted in space have been limited to samples no sizeabler than 10 cm (4 in) in length and width for the reason anything sizeabler is considered too dangerous to conduct on the space station.

Being run by NASA’s Glenn Research Center along with input of a number of international partners, the Saffire experiment’s purpose is to assess current models of how fires grow and spread in weightlessness as a way to improve spacecraft safety. It’s createed to simulate the amount of flammable material that is definitely most likely to be present in a spacecraft fire and to examine the flammability limits of materials by via a sample material of 1 m (39 in) long – that is an order of magnitude sizeabler than any previous space fire experiment.

Fortunately, Saffire is not going to involve setting fire to an oily rag, tossing it into the spacecraft, and slamming the door. Instead, three Cygnus cargo ships, beginning with CRS OA-6 scheduled to lift off on March 22, can have a special experimental module installed for a regulated burn. According to NASA, aside of the safety factor, the Cygnus spacecraft was chosen for the reason it has the required volume, power, communication systems, and availability.

After CRS OA-6 leaves the ISS in May next its resupply undertaking, it can not return to planet Earth, but can instead be filled with station rubbish and burn up in the planet Earth’s atmosphere somewhere over the South Pacific Ocean. Before this takes place the Saffire module can instantly carry out the fire experiment while sensors and cameras transmit data and images of the event to undertaking control.

Saffire consists of a 40 x 100 cm (16 x 39 in) panel of flammable material in a box with vents at one end and fans at the other to facilitate airflow, but to prevent any sparks or burning fragments of escaping into the cargo bay. According to preprogrammed instructions, hot wires can ignite the material and a suite of avionic sensors can record temperature, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other facts while LEDs and cameras measure the length of the sample as it burns. In addition, thermocouples and a calibrated radiometer can track the spread of the flame.

The three Saffire experiments can be conducted on successive Cygnus undertakings. The space agency says that the findings can not just be useful for spacecraft safety, but in addition for mines, submarines, and aircraft, that are susceptible to much like fire hazards.

Source: NASA


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