back to article NASA sets fire to stuff in SPAAACE. On purpose. Because science

NASA's released the videos of its Saffire II experiment, in which the space agency borrowed the Mythbuster's incendiary habits and burned stuff in space. It's all in the name of science, naturally: as we noted on Monday, the agency wants to know how things burn in low gravity, so they can work on better fire control techniques …

  1. RIBrsiq
    Go

    "If you're going to have crime, it might as well be organized crime"

    As we spend more time in space, we are going to find out how things burn in space. So it might as well be in controlled circumstances!

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: "If you're going to have crime, it might as well be organized crime"

      "If you're going to sin, you might as well be original." --- Mike, the cool person

    2. druck Silver badge

      Re: "If you're going to have crime, it might as well be organized crime"

      Better than the uncontrolled test(s) on Mir.

      1. Dr. Ellen
        Facepalm

        Re: "If you're going to have crime, it might as well be organized crime"

        Oy vey ist Mir!

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Normex?

    Is that Nomex that goes "NOORRM!" when it walks into a bar?

    1. Spudley

      Re: Normex?

      Is that Nomex that goes "NOORRM!" when it walks into a bar?

      Well, it's in spaaaaaaace, so it probably goes "KHAAAAAAAAAAAN!"

      1. John G Imrie

        Really

        I thought in space no one could hear you scream.

        1. You aint sin me, roit
          Trollface

          Re: Really

          Looks like it went "woof"

  3. Simon Harris Silver badge
    Flame

    Setting fire to stuff...

    Now that's proper science!

  4. hplasm Silver badge
    Coat

    Fire in the sky.

    2016 version.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Green flicker

    No, you did NOT shoot that green sh*t at me!

  6. Swiss Anton

    How does this work?

    In the videos I see what looks like a flame travelling from right to left. Here on earth flames go up because the burning gases are lighter than the surrounding air. In zero G there is no concept of lighter, so nothing should go anywhere, the fire would quickly be staved of oxygen and go out. True the article refers to low G, rather than zero G, but would that difference be enough to account for the movement of the flame? Is the experiment forcing air across the seat of the fire. This is not an unreasonable thing to do because I'd assume that the air in a human habitable module would be constantly blown around to stop the 'nauts from suffocating on their own CO2.

    1. NotBob

      Re: How does this work?

      The sideways flame is interesting, I assumed it was a camera angle thing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How does this work?

      I imagine that the fire burns horizontally for the same reason a match held horizontally burns across (and indeed, held vertically burns downwards, although this is less stable) - the fuel at the edge of the flame is heated and combusts.

    3. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: How does this work?

      The sideways flame... two theories:

      1) That the flame is continuously ventilated, so the fire acts like it would before the fire suppression systems stop circulating oxygen in an emergency situation.

      2) As the materials are in a closed area (the test vessel) the expansion of the gases due to the heating (and also the additional pyrolytic gases increasing the local pressure) leads to a constant movement of the burning vapours away from the centre of the fire, which in this instance means movement from the right of the container to the left.

      Personally, I'd put my money on 1.

    4. Captain DaFt

      Re: How does this work?

      "In the videos I see what looks like a flame travelling from right to left."

      I figure it's because of the decaying orbit.

      Since the module is decelerating, the heavier, cooler air gets 'forced' to the front, pushing the lighter, hot gasses to the rear.

      Just a guess.

      1. cray74

        Re: How does this work?

        I figure it's because of the decaying orbit.

        Not during the experiments. It took a while (a few days, I think) to download the video, stills, and other data, so the capsule didn't experience accelerations until after completion of the experiment.

    5. fnj

      Re: How does this work?

      I'd assume that the air in a human habitable module would be constantly blown around to stop the 'nauts from suffocating on their own CO2.

      Not necessarily. Nothing could STOP the CO2 from diffusing into the atmosphere. Same principle as an airship. Air inevitably leaks into the gas container, but it doesn't settle on the bottom. The whole contents become contaminated and have to purified.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: How does this work?

        I was wondering if it is in the direction away the largest heated surface area (by m sq) so you have a convection current.

    6. LoPath
      Flame

      Re: How does this work?

      Here's a pic: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/Saffire_Additional%20Image%201.png

      From this, I'd assume the fire would go from left to right, but they must be using an iPhone. :)

  7. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Green pulsing light...

    Was there a purpose to the green pulsing light, or was it some artifact of the photography?

    1. Kaltern

      Re: Green pulsing light...

      Was just a curious alien taking snapshots.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Green pulsing light...

      It is likely the starboard navigation light, granted they seem of limited use in space but NASA has their ISS cargo vessels equiped with them anyway.

    3. LoPath
      Alien

      Re: Green pulsing light...

      https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1918.html

      "The sample is periodically illuminated by a LED source to allow the measurement of the pyrolysis length."

  8. A. Coatsworth
    Flame

    For some reason I read that title in the voice of GlaDOS. Not that I'm complaining, that was hilarious.

    ... On the subject of the article, life probably won't get better than being a rocket scientist who is allowed to play with matches.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "... On the subject of the article, life probably won't get better than being a rocket scientist who is allowed to play with matches."

      Light blue touchpaper and retire to a safe distance :-)

  9. ridley

    Low Gravity

    No wonder I have so much trouble getting across to my students that there is gravity in space when the BBC, the Press and here talk about low/zero gravity rather than low/zero G.

    Flames tend to pulse in space. The oxygen in the immediate surroundings gets used up so the flame goes out, oxygen rushed in and reignites it, repeat. So maybe that is the green flashing.

  10. A Nonny Moose

    Sample 9 – plexiglass at window-thickness

    Hmm, if your space windows are on fire, you're having a bad day. But at least the fire won't be your problem for very long.

  11. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    In space..

    No-one can hear you screaming "I'M MEEEEELLLLTTTINGGGG"..

  12. Esme

    Maybe the capsule is spinning?

    If the capsule the experiment is in is spinning, then the hot gases would go preferentially toward the spin axis. Alternatively, if the capsule is decelerating due to atmospheric drag even a tiny amount, it might be enough to cause the flame to go preferentially in one direction.

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