NASA’s John H Glenn Research Centre is going to light a “large scale fire” in space as part of an experiment that seeks to understand how fire spreads in a micro-gravity environment.
Called the Spacecraft Fire Experiment (Saffire), the experiment on board the next Orbital/ATK Cygnus cargo mission will begin after the unmanned resupply vehicle will undock the International Space Station (ISS) after dropping key science supplies.
“Saffire I, II, and III will launch separately in 2016 aboard resupply missions to the ISS. But they will not be unloaded and after the Orbital/ATK Cygnus pulls far away from the space station, the experiments will begin,” NASA Glenn said in a YouTube video.
The fire will take place in a box full of “cotton-fiberglass composite” and the data generated from the experiment will be beamed back to Earth before Cygnus starts re-entry.
Instruments on the returning Cygnus will measure flame growth, oxygen use and more.
NASA scientists know that flames can be erratic in space but they don’t fully understand their properties and mechanics, Tech Insider reported.
Come March 22 and NASA’s commercial partner Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for its fifth contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The flight, known as Orbital ATK CRS-6, will deliver investigations to the space station to study fire, meteors, regolith, adhesion, and 3D printing in microgravity.
Results could determine microgravity flammability limits for several spacecraft materials, help to validate NASA’s material selection criteria, and help scientists understand how microgravity and limited oxygen affect flame size.
A less heated investigation called “Meteor Composition Determination” will enable the first space-based observations of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere from space.
From grounded to gripping, another investigation launching takes its inspiration from small lizards.
The “Gecko Gripper” investigation tests a gecko-adhesive gripping device that can stick on command in the harsh environment of space.