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article imageNASA sets fire in Cygnus cargo ship after it leaves ISS

By Karen Graham     Jun 15, 2016 in Science
After a 12-week stay, the Cygnus resupply cargo ship departed the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. EDT. Five hours after leaving the ISS, NASA set the cargo ship alight.
At 4:55 p.m. EDT, NASA controllers here on Earth at Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia remotely activated the Saffire-1 experiment in the hold of the Orbital ATK Cygnus Pressurized Cargo Module after it had drifted a safe distance from the orbiting space station.
The controlled burn was the largest fire ever started in space, and it burned inside an insulated container in the cargo hold, all in an attempt to better understand the nature of a fire in zero-gravity and how we can improve the safety of astronauts while in space.
The pre-flight Saffire-I lit by green LEDs as it was during flight.
The pre-flight Saffire-I lit by green LEDs as it was during flight.
Cygnus will continue to orbit the Earth for an additional eight days before returning to Earth's atmosphere. In the meantime, hi-resolution imagery from two cameras off to one side of the burning material has been transmitted back to NASA. The space agency is also receiving data on temperature, oxygen, and Carbon dioxide levels from sensors within the cargo ship.
Digital Trends reported that in a press release, NASA said the Saffire-1 experiment was a chance to study a real fire in an orbiting spacecraft. “This hasn’t been possible in the past because the risks for performing such studies on crewed spacecraft are too high,” it said in the release.
Deploying the LEMUR CubeSats
Five days from now, on June 20, Cygnus will continue its mission, releasing five LEMUR CubeSats from an external deployer. The NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 satellites are part of a remote sensing satellite constellation that provides global ship tracking and weather monitoring.
NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 is being loaded into the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer.
NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 is being loaded into the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer.
Spire Global, Inc/NASA
The information from these Lemur CubeSats will be vital because many ships go unmonitored as they ply the world's oceans far from land and land-based beacons. The information sent back from these satellites will be useful to both consumers and the shipping industry, as well as helping coast guards to police their territorial waters for pirates and illegal fishing. Perhaps even more important is the added raw weather data these satellites will provide.
Two days later, on June 22, Cygnus, its mission completed will reenter the Earth's atmosphere where it will meet with a fiery death. NASA will not be providing a video of the Saffire-1 experiment or the Cygnus deorbit burn and re-entry, but will instead provide imagery updates as they become available on its site at:
In Digital Journal on March 16, Gary A. Ruff, NASA’s Spacecraft Fire Safety Demonstration project manager said, “One of the big questions in fire safety, whether it’s terrestrial or in space, is how rapidly are conditions in a room or spacecraft going to get bad for inhabitants.". Saffire-1 is just the start of future Saffire experiments for NASA. The data from these planned and controlled fires in space will lead to not only better fire protection on spacecraft in the future but also will aid in the development of safer protection gear for astronauts.
More about saffire1, NASA, cygnus cargo ship, Controlled burn, fire in space
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