USRA and NASA Scientists Set Another Fire Inside the Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft

This edge view of Saffire’s flame shows it developing over a one-centimeter thick sample of a plexiglass type material found on spacecraft. The blue color is typical of microgravity flames and moves from left to right at 20 cm per second. (Credits: NASA)

COLUMBIA, MD (USRA PR) — NASA has been conducting a series of space fire experiments called Spacecraft Fire Safety (Saffire) Experiments that investigate how fires grow and spread in space, especially aboard future spacecraft bound for Moon and Mars. Recently, another set of experiments were conducted when Saffire IV lit longer and stronger flames inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus Cargo spacecraft.

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NASA Sets Space Fire in Second Round of Fire Safety Experiments

Sample 7 of the Saffire-II Experiment consists partially of Nomex, a commercially available, flame-resistant material.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Fire safety is a crucial component of space living. As we partner with industry and international space agencies to develop deep space habitation capabilities, we are leveraging every opportunity to validate important habitation-related systems and operations in low-Earth orbit. The second Spacecraft Fire Safety experiment, or Saffire-II, is a fire experiment with nine material swatches that will be ignited in a cargo ship as it orbits Earth. Saffire-II is the second in a series of three fire safety experiments, and builds on the data captured during Saffire-I with an expanded test portfolio of new materials.

Saffire-II launched on OA-5 in October 2016. The nine samples in the experiment kit aboard the Cygnus cargo vehicle include a cotton-fiberglass blend, Nomex, and the same acrylic glass that is used for spacecraft windows. After the spacecraft departs the station, and before its destructive reentry to Earth, mission controllers on the ground will remotely ignite the samples.

Saffire-II mission updates will be added below as data and imagery are returned from the orbiting Cygnus vehicle.

UPDATE

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2106
All updates are posted in Eastern Standard Time

6:00 p.m: The Saffire team has successfully downlinked images from the nine samples tested in Saffire-II. The first sample has a thin sheet of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), also known as plexiglass, that is being used to ignite Nomex, a commercially available, flame-resistant material that is used on spacecraft for cargo storage bags and as a fire barrier. The second sample is a plexiglass sheet (5 cm wide x 29 cm long x 10 cm wide), a material that is used for spacecraft windows. The Saffire investigators will continue to downlink data and images on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and provide additional updates as they are available.

UPDATE

Monday, Nov. 21, 2016
All updates are posted in Eastern Standard Time

9:30 p.m.: All nine samples have burned and preliminary telemetry indicate that data and images were recorded as expected for all 9 samples and flow visualization. The Saffire-II hardware performed very well and there were no issues. The team will spend tonight downlinking the sensor and image data and begin analysis of the dataset tomorrow morning. Updates on Tuesday will include preliminary sensor data and images from the burns.

8:04 p.m.: Samples 1-6 have been ignited and we’ve captured more than 106,000 images. Samples 1-4 were a silicon material at different thicknesses. Samples 5 and 6 were the same cotton-fiberglass blend that was burned on Saffire-I; one was at the same flow speed as Saffire-I and the other was at the flow speed planned for Saffire-III. Samples 7-9 up next! The images will be downlinked to Orbital ATK overnight and transferred to researchers at NASA-GRC for analysis tomorrow. Initial images will be released as they are available.

7:14 p.m.: We’ve received confirmation that the first Saffire-II test sample has been ignited.

6:04 p.m.: Orbital ATK has confirmed that the Saffire-II experiment is powered and we are receiving telemetry. We remain on track for a 7:00 p.m. sample ignition.

8:22 a.m.: Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency commanded the International Space Station’s Candadarm2 robotic arm to release the Cygnus spacecraft.











Cygnus Departs Space Station, Begins Experiments

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)
The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

DULLES, Va., 21 November 2016 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced that its Cygnus™ spacecraft successfully unberthed from the International Space Station, starting the second phase of its mission before it reenters Earth’s atmosphere. Orbiting on its own, free of the ISS, the “S.S. Alan Poindexter” Cygnus will conduct two secondary mission objectives as part of its flight program: the Saffire-II payload experiment and the deployment of CubeSats to enhance weather forecasting capabilities. This is the second time Orbital ATK will use a Cygnus spacecraft as a platform for conducting science experiments in space.

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OA-5 Space Station Cargo Resupply Mission Reset for Sunday

Cygnus approaches ISS (Credit: NASA)
Cygnus approaches ISS (Credit: NASA)

Update: The mission has been postponed to no earlier than Sunday, Oct. 16 at 8:03 p.m. EDT due to hurricane Nicole.

Mission Update – October 10, 2016

Launch Site: MARS Pad 0A, Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia
Mission Customer: NASA

In coordination with its NASA customer, Orbital ATK has rescheduled the launch of the OA-5 CRS mission for Friday, October 14. The updated schedule now includes roll-out of the Antares rocket to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad on Wednesday, October 12. Liftoff of the Antares rocket on October 14 is planned for 8:51 p.m. (EDT), with the rendezvous of the “S.S. Alan Poindexter” Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft with the International Space Station expected at approximately 6:05 a.m. (EDT) on Monday, October 17.

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