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NASA Will Intentionally Burn Unmanned Orbiting Craft In Space (phys.org) 81

An anonymous reader writes from an article on Phys.org: NASA said it will test the effects of a large fire in space by setting off a blaze inside an orbiting unmanned space craft. NASA has set off tiny controlled fires in space in the past, but never tested how large flames react inside a space capsule in space. The goal is to measure the size of the flames, how quickly they spread, the heat output, and how much gas is emitted. The results of this experiment, dubbed Saffire-1, will determine how much fire resistance is needed in the ultra-light material used in the spacecraft and the astronaut's gear. It will also help NASA build better fire detection and suppression systems for their spaceships, and study how microgravity and limited amounts of oxygen affect the size of the flames.
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NASA Will Intentionally Burn Unmanned Orbiting Craft In Space

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  • wheres the oxygen?

    • Inside the craft....

      They will be simulating a manned atmosphere inside the craft before igniting it.

      • Re:Btrn in soace (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Skewray ( 896393 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @10:17PM (#51712455) Homepage
        I spent a year or so working on fire detection for the Orion project, which was, at the time, sending folks to the moon. Fire in space is an incredibly arcane subject, with almost nothing known. On Earth, convection is everything, but in space, there is no gravity to drive convection. In other words, hot air doesn't rise. So flames do really weird, unexpected, unintuitive things.
        • Now that's a claim not many people can make!

          I've read a bit about how it behaves in the past and looked at some amazing videos. Everything I saw had almost no visible flame. I really wonder what the heat signature would be like as it doesn't look concentrated at all.

        • So instead of "stop, drop and roll", it's presumably "stand perfectly still so the flames will starve quickly"?

          On the other hand, since astronauts aren't routinely passing out in a cloud of their own exhaled CO2, I guess there's enough forced air circulation to keep the flames going more than long enough.

        • I'd expect "gravity free" flames to be more chaotic / less predictable... I wonder how many times they'll have to burn the capsule before they get a representative sample.

        • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

          Fire in space is an incredibly arcane subject, with almost nothing known.

          and probably something that needs extensive study, earthbound building fires have been mitigated (read some magazines by Society of Fire Protection Engineers) but many lessons were learned the hard way throughout the decades. But asking for fire experiments on ISS surely makes everyone cringe as extensive measures must be used to keep it well contained. Problem is need to do experiments to see when fire gets out of control (i.e. take a couch with smoldering cigarette and video all the way to fully engulfed

    • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @09:41PM (#51712277)

      They invented a whole new concept called the "inside". This craft will be equipped with one such feature. It will contain oxygen.

    • Haven't you seen Star Wars? Just because you're in a vacuum doesn't mean you can't have huge fireballs and thunderous explosions.

      • I actually think you could have some really really cool looking massive fireballs in space. If you have a flammable mixture being ejected from a central point and ignition starts from the centre point fractionally after the start of the ejection you would have two expanding fronts. The first would be what ever the flammable mix is, the second is the ignition front chasing it. While the mixture remains dense enough for ignition to spread it would look really really cool.

        Obviously flammable mix in a vacuum

        • by Anonymous Coward

          ANY reactant that is exothermic will work. We on earth have "plenty" of O2 and so we use things that oxidise quickly. Plenty O2 compared to the excess amount generally found in the universe.

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @11:24PM (#51712765) Journal
        Fire and balls are two words you don't want to be used in a sentence describing your pants.
      • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
        besides the huge fireballs in space, why is that everyone with spacecraft capable of superluminal flight over interstellar distances engage in combat at close range like naval battleships?
    • > Btrn in soace
      and where is your spell checker ? ;-)
  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @09:36PM (#51712249) Journal

    The goal is to measure the size of the flames, how quickly they spread, the heat output, and how much gas is emitted.

    Said every pyro ever.

    • Yes, but appending 'space' to 'pyro' makes this perfectly reasonable and a good thing. Don't the old supply ships contain trash, so basically they are just dropping a burning ball of trash at Earth, friendly. But space-pyro.

  • Sounds Great (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This sounds like one of the more useful things I've ever heard nasa do.

  • They are setting off the fire inside a box inside the spacecraft. They are storing the data during the burn and transmitting it after the burn, so clearly they expect the spacecraft to survive.

    • Yes and no. The craft is intended to survive the fire, but will later burn up in re-entry.

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

        Yes and no. The craft is intended to survive the fire, but will later burn up in re-entry.

        That's not part of the experiment, that's the expected return mode of the spacecraft, so that would happen regardless of whether they conducted the experiment or not.

  • We either have a fire on board or Harold is breathing heavily again, either way I've got a problem.
  • Apollo 1 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nethead ( 1563 ) <joe@nethead.com> on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @11:27PM (#51712787) Homepage Journal

    I just hope they do this in the memory of Grissom, White, and Chaffee. That was one of my first early childhood scars.

    • I just hope they do this in the memory of Grissom, White, and Chaffee. That was one of my first early childhood scars.

      Absolutely.

  • ... the hard part is recovering after venting the atmosphere.

    Anyone who's played FTL will confirm that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just saying, I can't see NASA burning a manned spacecraft.

  • Seriously, Bigelow should do this as well. They have a cloth structure, so it be good to see how it can withstand a fire.
  • Unmanned, you say

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