NASA tames flames in space with SoFIE

Nowadays, security in the face of flames is a very often overlooked topic. Consequently, various studies have been carried out with a view to banishing certain flammable materials in the design of certain tools. Until recently, researchers have conducted experiments aimed at better understanding the behavior of flames in extraterrestrial. Eventually, the data from the experiments could help improve fire safety on Earth.

In reality, the experiments carried out took place on board a secure complex specially fitted out. In addition, this project named SOFIE (Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction) will launch aboard Northrop Grumman’s 17th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.

In addition, the initiator of this large-scale study was NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Furthermore, Paul Ferkulresearcher of the SoFIE project at the Glenn Research NASA Center in Cleveland, participated in the research.

The critical importance of SoFIE

Indeed, the current safety measures make it possible to better control fires on EARTH than before. Logically, these measures were applied to the astronauts’ suits. But unfortunately, fire behaves differently in space. Gravity changes and air flow can change the way it spreads and make it harder to extinguish.

As a result, it was necessary to create a special project to study in the best possible conditions the behviour flames in space. Thus, the Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SoFIE) project was conceived.

“Understanding how flames spread and how certain materials ignite in various environments is critical to the safety of future cosmonauts. »

Paul Ferkul, SoFIE project researcher at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland

In addition, the complex’s unique controlled-gravity environment allows scientists to study the true nature of lone flames and no altered by gravity. The collected data can then be applied to mathematical models that predict how these materials would burn in space environments.

A well-structured experience

In order to carry out this study, the researchers decided to divide the experiment into five major stages. First, these researchers will focus on the spread flame stable and unstable using thin spaceflight materials. Then they will look at the spread of fire on thick surfaces and flat.

Following these two steps, these scientists will proceed to study the limit of growth and D’extinguishing the fire. In addition, they will do the material ignition and suppression test. And finally, the latter will do the correlation between the spacecraft material flammability study and Earth gravity flammability test data.


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