Farewell, Saffire!

A fabric sample burning during the Saffire-IV experiment.

After eight years and six flight tests, NASA said a fiery farewell to the Spacecraft Fire Safety Experiment, or Saffire, mission. Each Saffire test took place on an uncrewed Cygnus supply vehicle after undocking from the space station. Cygnus craft burn up during atmospheric re-entry, so using them as a platform guaranteed safety for the station’s crew.

A Plexiglass sample burns as part of Saffire-V’s experiments. In this experiment, researchers found that flames grew and spread faster on thin ribs of Plexiglass (left) than on thicker samples (right).

Saffire itself used a small wind tunnel to push air past its burning materials. The tests included materials like plexiglass, cotton, Nomex, and other fabrics that might be found on a spacecraft or its occupants. The goal, of course, is to understand how fires grow and spread in a spacecraft in order to protect the crew. To that end, Saffire experiments recorded not only what went on inside their test unit, but also what the conditions were in the spacecraft as Saffire burned. (Image and video credit: NASA; via Gizmodo and NASA Glenn)

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