NASA has announced that it will be studying the characteristics of a ‘large’ fire in space by igniting a flame onboard a Cygnus ATK capsule. The unmanned capsule, is used to resupply cargo to space stations and will now be used to study the effects of a fire in space.

According to Mr. Gary Ruff- a lead engineer on the mission; employed with the US Department of Space Studies’ Glenn Research Center in Ohio, NASA has studied ‘centimeter-sized’ fires in space in the past. But in order to truly understand the threat it could pose, they need to study a real-sized fire.

The study, which is coined- “Saffire-1”, will help space scientists and engineers understand the volatility of a fire aboard a spacecraft, by studying the behavior of a large fire in the presence of lowered amounts of oxygen and under influence of microgravity.

The results will enable engineers to determine the grade of metals used in the manufacture of fire-resilient space crafts; as well as those that employ better fire- suppression systems. The data will also help design better space suits reducing threats posed by fire to astronauts.

The experiment will happen on the 23rd of March, where the Cygnus capsule will be propelled into space atop an Atlas 5 rocket, from Florida in the United States. This will be the Cygnus capsule’s last mission. After it has unloaded supplies to the International Space Station, project ‘Saffire 1’ will commence once the capsule is at a safe distance from the ISS.

Recordings of temperature, oxygen levels and carbon dioxide levels will give insights in to the experiment, where the fire is expected to last for 20 minutes. Cameras will also record footage of the experiment, a few days after which the capsule is expected to disintegrate when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.