Nasa to set a ship on fire in space, to test safety in emergencies

The craft will carry supplies up to the International Space Station — and then be intentionally set alight

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The Independent Online

Nasa is about to set a space capsule on fire so that it can see how safe its astronauts would be in the event of a real emergency.

The experiment will see a ship pushed out into space and then set alight so that researchers can measure exactly how it burns. The experiment will measure how big the flames get and how fast they spread, in order to know better how to protect astronauts against them.

Though small fires have been set in space before, this will be by far the biggest and provide more information than ever on how exactly fires burn in space.

The researchers behind the experiment hope that information can then be used to know exactly how fire resistant the spacecraft and the astronaut’s gear needs to be.

But it could also provide new information about fires and how they spread in the microgravity and lack of oxygen of space, helping learn exactly how they might spread if they ever happened.

The craft used will be an Orbital ATK Cygnus capsule. It will fly up to the International Space Station carrying supplies, and then when it’s done with take part in the experiment.

The fire will be set by people on the ground after the capsule has been moved to a safe distance away from the station. They will measure the temperature, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels thorugh sensors onboard the capsule and will watch it through cameras for the 20 minutes that it is expected to burn.

The capsule blasts off from Cape Canavarel next week.