Andy Rodriguez, Maria Thomsen Solis, Carlos Fernandez-Pello
Fire safety is a concern in space travel, particularly with the current plans of increasing the length of the manned space missions (e.g. missions to Mars), and of using spacecraft atmospheres different than in Earth, such as microgravity, low-velocity gas flows, low pressure and elevated oxygen concentration.
The focus of this research is to understand how these new environmental conditions could affect the fire behavior. In this research, a small-scale wind tunnel is used to conduct flame spread experiments over a cylindrical polymer, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) also known as Acrylite, of several dimensions. We measure changes on forced flow velocity, oxygen concentration, ambient pressure, and external radiation. Furthermore, several sets of experiments have been conducted on board of the International Space Station (ISS) allowing us to study also the effect of gravity.
Additionally, the research done for this project is funded by NASA and is done in support of the Burning and Suppression of Solids – II project (BASS-II). This project examines the burning and extinction characteristics of different fuel samples burning in microgravity. The BASS-II experiment will guide strategies for materials flammability screening for use in spacecraft as well as provide valuable data on solid fuel burning behavior in microgravity. This unique data can be used later for validation of numerical models used in the design of fire detection and suppressions system on earth and on space.
A summary presentation of the current projects can be downloaded at the following link Spacecraft_Fire_Research