NASA announced that it is in the process of developing a series of experiments that have the firm objective of analyzing and gathering information about how fire behaves in outer space and thus make a better selection of the materials with which astronaut suits and spacecraft are built.
The project, which will be called Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SOFIE), will be launched in conjunction with the experiments of Northrop Grumman’s seventeenth cargo refueling mission, which will arrive at the International Space Station and through which a controlled fire is planned at that headquarters.
Particularly, the studies where the experiments will be carried out will be in the integrated combustion frame, belonging to the International Space Station and where there is a chamber in which burns can be carried out safely.
In addition to improving the choice of materials in missions and for astronaut suits, the research is expected to set a precedent to know which materials react best in space, so the information is also expected to be used when designing safe houses against fires that would be located on the Moon or even on Mars.
In total, there will be five different investigations, through which the flammability of plexiglass, cotton-based fabrics and some other materials that are usually used in explorations outside the earth will be verified. The main metrics to be evaluated are changes in gravity and airflow, which can alter the way fire spreads in orbit.
The project is scheduled to operate in November 2025, so it can currently be modified in terms of proposals for additional experiments.
“On Earth, gravity has a profound influence on flames, but in the reduced gravity of space, fire can behave unexpectedly and could be more dangerous.”
Paul Ferkul, sofie project scientist.