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Spacecraft Fire Experiment-II: NASA Sets Fire In Space

First Posted: Nov 24, 2016 03:00 AM EST

NASA has continued its ongoing discovery on how fire grows in space.

The space agency started the second leg of its Spacecraft Fire Experiment-II, also known as Saffire-II, on Monday, The Christian Science Monitor reported. The unmanned cargo spacecraft called Cygnus took off from the International Space Station after remaining on the ground for one month.

The three-part experiment, which was launched in March, aims to find out the physics behind the behavior of fire in microgravity. According to NASA, this information is an "immensely important" requirement in creating new spacecraft, instruments and subsystems.

"NASA's objective is to reduce the risk of long-duration exploration missions, and a spacecraft fire is one of the biggest concerns for NASA and the international space exploration community," said NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems Division Jason Crusan in a press release.

This project will also help develop operational protocols in relation to fire emergencies for the astronauts' safety if ever they could not be able to exit the spacecraft and immediately return to Earth.

According to Saffire-II principal investigator David Urban, this experiment is conducted to give answers to the following questions: "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?"

The Cygnus spacecraft was strategically designed to be disposable for massive ignitions. Saffire-I ignited the largest fire intentionally generated in space with the use of a piece of 1.3 feet wide by 3.3 feet long cotton-fiberglass. On its second leg, the team is expected to burn a mix of nine varying objects such as fire-proof fabrics used in making spacesuits, storage container materials, acrylic glass for spacecraft windows and silicone composites among others.

The third and final part of the Spacecraft Fire Experiment series is set to be conducted early next year.

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