NASA has confirmed that it’s going to intentionally set a cargo ship in space on fire. In the coming week, the agency’s commercial partner Orbital ATK is going to launch its Cygnus cargo spacecraft that’s going to take up supplies and other important inventory to the ISS but that’s not where the mission is going to end.
Once it docks with the International Space Station and delivers the crew their supplies and other inventory, the crew will load up the capsule with trash which will then undock from the ISS. That’s when NASA is going to set it on fire.
If you were wondering why NASA is doing this, no it hasn’t lost its marbles, this is part of an experiment called Saffire. The experiment aims to understand how potential fires can spread across a spacecraft so instead of risking the ISS and the crew onboard it’s much easier to conduct this experiment on a cargo spacecraft once it has safely undocked from the ISS>
A material that’s over three feet long and one foot wide is going to start the fire in the Cygnus capsule. Onboard sensors will then measure the overall temperature and the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide inside the capsule.
Two cameras will provide a view of what’s going on inside. The first will burn for about 20 minutes and NASA will then spend the next week downloading data from all of the onboard sensors to come up with better ways of preventing fires from spreading in space vehicles.