File This Under Cool. Amazing Flame in Zero G Experiment

Amazing Flame Comes to Life in Space Station Microgravity Combustion Science

I am not sure why but I think this is just cool. It reminded me of the zero G explosions you would see in a movie like Star Wars. I always wondered what an actual explosion would look like in zero G. The movie magic people did what they could with special effects but this is real life and it is indeed better than the fiction. As you watch it you can see the flame is directionless. There is no up so there is no way to carry the combustion products away from the fuel source, this partially extinguishes the flame. Then as some air gets back to the fuel it allows combustion again…for all the world looking like a swimming jellyfish.

Understanding combustion may lead to more efficient engines and spectacular videos. Science Objectives The Flame Extinguishment – 2 (FLEX-2) experiment is the second experiment to fly on the ISS which uses small droplets of fuel to study the special spherical characteristics of burning fuel droplets in space. The FLEX-2 experiment studies how quickly fuel burns, the conditions required for soot to form, and how mixtures of fuels evaporate before burning. Understanding these processes could lead to the production of a safer spacecraft as well as increased fuel efficiency for engines using liquid fuel on Earth. Earth Applications Watching fuel burn in a perfect sphere provides a unique view of fire that would be impossible to recreate on Earth.

Better knowledge of fire’s dynamics could lead to improved fuels for vehicles and aircraft, including efficient, environmentally friendly mixtures of chemicals that burn well together and produce less soot. Soot results from the incomplete burning of a hydrocarbon, and it is harmful to human and environmental health. The FLEX-2 experiment provides a unique view on soot formation that would be impossible under the influence of Earth’s gravity. Space Applications The FLEX-2 experiment measures soot buildup, flame heat and the burning rates of various types of fuels and fuel mixtures. Understanding how fuels burn in microgravity could improve the efficiency of fuel mixtures used for interplanetary missions by reducing cost and weight. It could also lead to improved safety measures for manned spacecraft. Conditions for this test: Test conducted with 50/50 fuel mixture of iso-octane and heptane in a standard air environment (21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen at 1 atm). Burn with 3-mm droplet experienced flame oscillations, which appear as a hole in the flame shell that repeatedly opens and closes. These oscillations create asymmetries in the flame, resulting in a force imbalance on the droplet

About the author

Recipient of many prestigious NASA Awards including the Exceptional Public Service Medal and the Robert H. Goddard award. Experience includes working for NASA, as a contractor, in satellite design, construction and operations. Expert in the satellite operations concepts and ground systems including command, control, and science data processing.