In space, no one can hear you burn. NASA has been conducting experiments with fire in space, hoping to gain a better understanding of any potential future hazards. Having previously only worked with tiny little flames, NASA has increased the scale this time around.
This venture was known as the Saffire experiment, and involved a 1-meter by 1.3-meter long space being lit ablaze. A 1-meter long cotton-fiber was the object of choice. This all took place in Cygnus cargo spacecraft, as the experiment was deemed too dangerous to do aboard the International Space Station.
The fire, when ignited, burned for eight minutes. Christopher Pestak, a researcher at NASA Glenn, said: “A fire in space differs significantly from a fire on Earth primarily because of the effects of gravity. Without gravity-driven buoyancy, flames behave very differently. Microgravity combustion research leads to the selection of safer materials for use in spacecraft, improved fire detection and suppression equipment for spacecraft, and improved combustion models that are being used for a variety of Earth-based applications including transportation and energy conversion.”
In other words, by learning how fire burns in space, they can better kit out their space stations to stop them from burning in a fire in space. Now that the spacecraft Cygnus has served its purpose, it is going to make a controlled, destructive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, blooming into a mighty inferno as it does.