NASA Plan Will Have Cygnus Spaceship Go Down In Flames (Twice)

In a Blaze of Glory Credit: NASA

In a Blaze of Glory
Credit: NASA

Talk about going down in flames.

Sometimes it seems that NASA has an inappropriate fascination with destroying its own spacecraft. Cassini comes to mind, but there are quite a few other examples, including the four former SSME’s which will power each of the first few SLS launches.

See Related:  Expending Reusable Engines: A Good Thing? 

Given that the upcoming Orbital ATK supply ship Rick Husband which will soon be headed to ISS as part of the OA-6 mission is destined to be consumed in the upper atmosphere at the end of its mission anyway, NASA will at least be conducting some very useful research during the doomed vessel’s final days.

The experiment, labelled Sapphire-1, will see scientists from NASA Glenn send a signal to Cygnus from Orbital ATK’s control center, igniting a contained fire on-board the craft after it has left the Station. Cameras will record the event, with Cygnus relaying the data back to Glenn, allowing scientists the best opportunity to study large scale fires in Earth orbit since Bruce Willis left the Russian space station in Armageddon.

A NASA video explains the experiment:

The resupply mission is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral aboard an Atlas V on March 23rd. But for an early preview of what a real fire in space might look like, consider this television classic.

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