Spacecraft Fire Safety and Microgravity Combustion


Humankind has progressively increased the duration and extent of missions beyond the surface of the Earth. This journey has not been without risk. In the history of human spaceflight, of the 10 recorded events that resulted in the loss of crew, two events involved fire. On-orbit, there have been 13 fire or overheat events of which two were grave and represented a clear risk to the crew. Therefore, fire remains a significant risk for spaceflight that merits research for future flights. The fire risk in a spacecraft is more challenging than most terrestrial locations due to inevitable use of polymers and potential ignition sources in cramped quarters, limited resources for fire response, and limited evacuation strategy. 

Spacecraft fire safety has been a research topic in combustion and fire safety engineering, since 1970s, and has expanded to include future long-term manned missions, and establishment of human habits on the moon, Mars, and beyond. Spacecraft fire research is complex and experimentally costly, constrained by limited access to space experiments and brief ground-based experiments. Along with additional numerical simulations, we can provide constructive fire safety strategies for designing a fire-safe spacecraft that ensure a safe space travel.  

Key collaborators:

• Key Laboratory of Microgravity, Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing)
• Energy Conversion Engineering Laboratory, Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan
• Combustion Fire Processes Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley

Peiyi (Sally) Sun

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