NASA Plans to Light a "Large-Scale Fire" in Space

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 - 3:46PM
Space
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 - 3:46PM
NASA Plans to Light a "Large-Scale Fire" in Space
The ISS has played host to many weird experiments, including those involving fruit fly astronauts, hard liquor, a dozen mice, beer brewed by an 11-year-old, etc. But the latest experiment is both strange and somewhat alarming: studying the behavior of a giant fire lit in a space station.

NASA announced several new ISS experiments today, including relatively innocuous studies involving 3-D printing, micrometeorites, and robotic wall grippers. But the most interesting one by far is the Spacecraft Fire Experiment-I (Saffire-1), which will light a large fire in space. For this study, they will use an expendable spacecraft for the next resupply mission, wait until it undocks from the ISS, and then operators on the ground will give the order for a sealed box filled with fiberglass composite to spontaneously combust. 

Opening quote
"Understanding fire in space has been the focus of many experiments over the years," Saffire-1 co-investigator Gary Ruff said during a press call (via Gizmodo). "While many small, centimeter-sized fires have been lit in space before, to really understand fire, you've gotta look at a more realistic size."
Closing quote

If this experiment sounds slightly terrifying to you, it should, because the primary purpose of the study is to simulate the worst-case scenario in order to improve safety protocols. 

Opening quote
"One of the big questions in fire safety, whether it's terrestrial or in space, is how rapidly are conditions in a room or spacecraft going to get bad for inhabitants," Ruff said.
Closing quote

That being said, the experiment is not actually dangerous, as it will take place far, far away from the ISS and any actual astronauts.

Opening quote
"It'll be about four hours away, on a different orbit, and I think below the station when they start," Ruff said.
Closing quote
Science
NASA
Space

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