Ready for ignition
In the early morning of October 3, 2020 (1:16 CEST), the Antares rocket with the nearly 8-ton CYGNUS spacecraft successfully lifted off from Wallops Island in Virginia, USA. Also on board is an experiment on fire safety in human space flight, designed by the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) at the University of Bremen.
The purpose of the CYGNUS capsule is to provide the International Space Station ISS with supplies and new experiment setups and then to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere on its way back. For the second time now, the otherwise unused return is being used by ZARM combustion researchers for an experiment in the "SAFFIRE V" module. After the entire cargo has been loaded onto the ISS, the experiment module the size of a desk remains on board the carrier. Only after undocking and after the spacecraft has reached a safe distance from the ISS will the experiment be initiated in mid December 2020. An acrylic board (40 x 20 x 1.5 centimeters) will be ignited – twice. First, the material sample mounted in a wind tunnel is to be ignited at one end in such a way that the flame is spread "upstream" over the material by an air flow with standard atmosphere (1013 millibar, 21 % oxygen - as on Earth). The progress of combustion is observed along different structures applied to the sample. Then the air flow is interrupted and the flame is extinguished. Later, the acrylic sample is re-ignited at the other end and the combustion against the flow is studied. In this second part of the experiment, the environmental conditions correspond to those of the atmosphere as intended for future astronautic exploration missions (600 millibar/ 34 % oxygen).
A comparably large material sample has only been examined once before using the previous experiment SAFFIRE IV - also on the return flight of the CYGNUS transporter. At that time, the experiment caused a big surprise, as it did not die out as planned after the ventilation was switched off, but instead reignited and caused a violent deflagration. This is another reason why this experiment is now being awaited with great anticipation.
The SAFFIRE V project is financed by NASA.
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