'Fire in space' experiment to kick off aboard US cargo ship

2016-11-21 20:32
A Nasa handout photo of Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo craft. (Nasa, vis AFP)

A Nasa handout photo of Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo craft. (Nasa, vis AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Miami - How does fire act in space? Researchers will soon find out, by igniting nine different materials aboard an unmanned spaceship on its way to a fiery re-entry to Earth's atmosphere, Nasa said on Monday.

The Cygnus cargo ship operated by the US company Orbital ATK left the International Space Station, packed with 1.5 tons of garbage, at 08:22 (13:22 GMT) on Monday.

Ultimately, the whole spaceship and its contents will burn up on re-entry to Earth's atmosphere at 18:30 (23:30 GMT) on Sunday.

But until then, the spaceship transforms into a test bed that aims to improve safety for astronauts living in space by helping experts better understand how fire behaves in microgravity.

"A spacecraft fire is one of the greatest crew safety concerns for Nasa and the international space exploration community," said project manager Gary Ruff, part of the team working on the experiment known as the Spacecraft Fire Experiment, or Saffire.

The nine samples of materials to be set ablaze include "flame retardant fabrics used for astronaut clothing, station Plexiglas window samples with edge variations and structures used for storage containers and silicone composites", said Nasa.

Each sample is five by 28cm, and is placed in a separate compartment for the fire study.

"Saffire seeks to answer two questions," said principal investigator David Urban.

"Will an upward spreading flame continue to grow or will microgravity limit the size?

"Secondly, what fabrics and materials will catch fire and how will they burn?"

Nasa said the first fire in the series of experiments would start about five hours after the Cygnus departed.

The goal is "to help investigators better understand flammability of these materials in a microgravity environment", said a statement by Orbital ATK.

The company said data will be downloaded from the spacecraft via telemetry.

Cygnus launched from Wallops Island, Virginia and arrived at the ISS on October 23, carrying 2 300kg of food, supplies and science experiments for the team of global astronauts living in orbit.

Orbital ATK and SpaceX have each been awarded Nasa contracts worth more than one billion dollars to supply the space station.

Read more on:    nasa  |  us  |  space exploration

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.