Our understanding of the way fire behaves in space is expanding as-the fifth in a series of NASA investigations ignited recently. The Spacecraft Fire Safety Experiment-V (Saffire-V) successfully tested larger, more dynamic fires for over 26 hours inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, following its primary mission of delivering supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
After the Cygnus departed station on 6th January 2021, operators on the ground, for the first-time on a Saffire mission, lowered the pressure inside the spacecraft and backfilled it with oxygen to replicate potential atmospheric conditions that might likely-be experienced inside future human spacecraft.
After ignition, cameras & sensors monitored flame growth, temperature variations & oxygen changes, which were translated into data. The data are going to be used to model fire response scenarios, also as fire detection, combustion product monitoring & post-fire cleanup.
“The elevated oxygen levels show more energetic flames, which might have a bigger impact on the vehicle,” says Gary A. Ruff, Saffire project manager at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. “The Saffire-V data will allow us to model fire scenarios & increase our confidence in safety strategies.”
Another Saffire experiment is prepared to fly an upcoming launch to the space platform as NASA continues to pursue a greater-understanding of the risks and behaviors of fire in space for Artemis astronauts who will explore the Moon & eventually Mars.
Saffire is a series of experiments developed by the Spacecraft Fire Safety Demonstration Project, which supports NASA’s Exploration Capabilities Program.