Headlines > News > Orbital's Cygnus Spacecraft Selected by NASA to Host Experimental Fire Safety Payload

Orbital's Cygnus Spacecraft Selected by NASA to Host Experimental Fire Safety Payload

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Aug 8, 2013 8:07 pm via: Orbital
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Saffire Experiments Will Test Flammability of Various Materials in Low-Gravity Environments.

(Dulles, VA) – Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced it has been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to host a scientific payload that will improve spacecraft fire safety for future space exploration vehicles. Known as the Spacecraft Fire Experiment (Saffire), the payload will be hosted aboard Orbital’s Cygnus advanced maneuvering spacecraft and is planned for flight by mid-2015.

“While the primary mission of Cygnus is to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), Saffire will demonstrate the ability of Cygnus to provide important secondary mission capabilities, including as a platform to conduct a wide variety of experiments and demonstrations beneficial to the scientific and engineering community,” said Mr. Frank DeMauro, Orbital’s Cygnus Program Manager.

“After completing its cargo delivery mission, Cygnus has the capability of remaining in space for months at a time and provide substantial power, data and propulsion support to hosted payloads,” DeMauro added. “This affords researchers ample time to conduct experiments in a real-world space environment at an affordable cost, a very attractive feature for scientists looking to conduct short- to medium-duration research and for space industry communities developing flight heritage data for materials and systems.”

The self-contained Saffire payload, built by NASA’s Glenn Research Center (GRC), will test the flammability of large samples of various types of materials in low-gravity environments. It will be integrated into Cygnus’ Pressurized Cargo Module and remain in place throughout the duration of the cargo delivery mission.

Orbital is currently under contract for one mission, but NASA is preparing three flight systems, Saffire I, II and III, each dedicated to a separate Saffire Cygnus mission. Saffire I will test one fabric sample, while Saffire II will test 10 fabric samples and Saffire III will test a hybrid of the Saffire I and II samples.

“Currently, most flammability data for materials in microgravity is obtained during short-duration, drop-tower tests with small sample sizes,” said Mr. Carl Walz, Orbital’s Vice President for Human Spaceflight and a former NASA astronaut. “There is very little data on large-scale material flammability in low-gravity environments. Gathering this type of data will enable NASA to enhance safe operations of new space vehicles that are being designed for long-duration travel to the Moon, asteroids and other destinations.”

“The Cygnus design has been modified to provide a standard interface capability for future internally and externally hosted payloads, similar to the system we have used for hosted payloads on our commercial communications satellites. This will provide low-cost, short-lead time and regular spaceflight opportunities for a variety of future government and commercial hosted payloads,” said DeMauro.

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