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NASA to Conduct Experiments With Fire in Space

© AP Photo / Scott Kelly/NASAThis image made available by NASA via Twitter shows the Cygnus spacecraft approaching the International Space Station on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015
This image made available by NASA via Twitter shows the Cygnus spacecraft approaching the International Space Station on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 - Sputnik International
A US unmanned Cygnus cargo ship has detached from the International Space Station (ISS) to carry out tests with fire in space, NASA announced Tuesday.

The experiments will be conducted on board of the ship several hours after undocking from the ISS Unity module. One experiment is aimed at determining how big fires grow outside of the Earth's atmosphere.

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The Spacecraft Fire Experiment (Saffire) will take place when the unmanned ship reaches a safe distance from the ISS and will not pose a danger to astronauts, NASA stressed.

NASA specialists will ignite a fire in a module containing a 38-inch by 19-inch (97 cm by 49 cm) cotton-and-fiberglass material sample, and monitor its behavior remotely.

The experiment will begin with igniting the sample. Air flowing through ducts will fan the fire, which is expected to burn for about 20 minutes. Scientists want to find out how microgravity influences the growth of fire, whether the force will limit flames, and how materials burn.

​Specialists on Earth will receive data recorded by fire and oxygen sensors installed on the ship and images from onboard cameras. They hope the findings will assist them in developing ways to suppress fire during space missions.

"NASA's objective is to reduce the risk of long-duration exploration missions, and a spacecraft fire is one of the biggest concerns for NASA and the international space exploration community," said Jason Crusan, NASA director of advanced exploration systems, as cited by CBS.

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In addition, five lightweight LEMUR satellites will be launched into space from Cygnus to help monitor meteorological conditions and the movement of sea-craft. The cargo ship will also take out about two tons of waste and used materials from the space station.

Cygnus will stay in orbit until June 22, before entering the Earth's atmosphere and burning up above the Pacific Ocean in a controlled reentry.

Cygnus, produced by the US Orbital ATK company, docked with the ISS late in March. Cargo included drinking water, food supplies, a 3D-printer and equipment to determine the chemical makeup of meteorites reaching Earth atmosphere.

The next Cygnus spaceship is set to depart for the ISS on June 6.

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