The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will be conducting a series of experiments on fire in outer space. The Spacecraft Fire Experiment-1, or Saffire-1, that aims to find out how big fires can grow in outer space and microgravity, was conducted at 2:30 a.m. IST (4:55 p.m. EDT). NASA will be revealing the results of the experiment on Thursday.
According to Reuters, the vehicle used in the experiment was an unmanned cargo ship that was sent to the ISS on Tuesday. The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was initially used to send supplies and as part of Saffire-1, contained a 97 cm by 49 cm module made of cotton and fiberglass.
The cotton fabric, known as SIBAL, was developed and used for previous combustion experiments by NASA. According to Space.com, the material was to be burnt from the bottom at first. If the flame were to go out, the material would then be lit from the top to study how flames travel against the airflow in microgravity.
"Saffire seeks to answer two questions," principal investigator David Urban had said in a statement issued in March. "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?"
David Urban, the lead researcher for Saffire, told Reuters that similar experiments had been conducted in the past but the samples used were no bigger than an index card. "We tried for years to find a vehicle and a circumstance where this would work and initially we'd get a 'not on my spacecraft' reaction," Urban had said during a NASA TV interview.
Abc News reported that the experiment inside the Cygnus cargo ship would last 20 minutes and the cameras and sensors on board would record information. The data collected would then be used by NASA to determine how space fires can be controlled.
According to an update from NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems' (AES) Twitter handle, the data collected from the experiment will be studied by researchers and the findings will be published later. The Twitter feed also revealed that the space fire aboard the cargo ship will burn at over 800 degree Celsius and that the cargo ship has travelled a distance in excess of 1,600 km in outer space.