Next gen space station firefighting tools designed to douse out fires in microgravity

April 6th, 2009 - 1:56 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 6 (ANI): US engineers are developing the next-generation of firefighting equipment specially designed to work in microgravity to douse out fires in space stations.

According to a report in Discovery News, with a new spaceship under development, NASA is investing in next-generation fire-fighting gear that is specially designed to work in microgravity.

“In space, fires are like spheres. They’re not shaped like what we have on earth,” said James Butz, vice president of operations for ADA Technologies.

The company has already received a grant from NASA to continue work on an extinguisher that coats fires in a fine mist.

The technology is one of two NASA is exploring for use aboard its Orion spacecraft, the follow-on program to the space shuttle.

“There are mainly three emergencies that we train for - a fire, a depressurisation, or if the atmosphere becomes not livable,” said Sandra Magnus, who returned last week from a four-month stay on the International Space Station.

“If the situation can’t be contained, we basically train to evacuate,” she added.

But, astronauts aboard Orion will not have that luxury.

“ADA’s technology would coat a flame in tiny droplets of mist, much like fog,” said Butz.

The key to getting the droplets small enough is to use compressed gas. The system uses water and nitrogen so it is non-toxic and has an unlimited shelf life.

Because oxygen and nitrogen will be aboard the spacecraft, the extinguisher can be refilled if needed.

The technology, which has been under development for about a decade, caught NASA’s eye about two and a half years ago.

The company’s most recent grant is intended to tweak the nozzle design to address issues raised by the surface tension of water droplets.

The other fire-fighting technology under development is water-based foam, which Butz says works well, but is messy in microgravity. (ANI)

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