Space Shuttle to Test Suppression System


The STS-107 research mission of the Space Shuttle is scheduled to launch in November, and will carry the Water Mist Fire Suppression Experiment (MIST), the results of which could improve the design of next-generation environmentally friendly fire-fighting systems.

For many years, Halons were used to suppress fires in areas where water could damage equipment, computers, and valuable objects. Halons have since been banned due to their harmful effects on the ozone layer. So, how do you fight fire with water so that the fire is extinguished with minimal or no property damage?

Two commercial companies - Environmental Engineering Concepts and  Arizona Mist - have partnered with the Center for the Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space (CCACS), a NASA-sponsored Commercial Space Center, to investigate the use of fine water mists in fighting fires. 

The experiment, which will be conducted in microgravity, will study how different sizes and concentrations of water droplets will affect a thin layer of flame. The droplet sizes will measure between 20 and 40 microns in size (like those in a fine fog), rather than the 1-millimeter and larger droplets that come from a standard sprinkler.

Researchers hope to discover the optimum water concentration and water droplet size necessary to suppress fires. These new, low-cost systems could be used in ships, aircraft, spacecraft, libraries, museums, cooking areas, and other commercial spaces.

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