Fire in space / spacecraft

I recall reading somewhere that if you were to light a candle inside a space shuttle, the flame would be spherical and pale white, and that this among other things is one of the problems with firefighting in space, that it is so hard to spot. Is this true? My physics teacher had never heard of anything like it.


Howstuffworks has a nifty picture of a flame in microgravity (near the bottom.)

And NASA’s Microgravity Combustion Science Research Program page has a lot of info as well.

It would indeed be spherical… although zero-g fire has some other odd properties too.
Fighting fire in orbit ain’t something new though: on February 23, 1997 there was a fire in Mir’s emergency oxygen generator (the main system having gone off-line a few months previously).

That one was issuing from the casing of a lithium-perchloride oxygen canister. Accounts appear to differ, with the early reports saying it was a 90 second cigarette lighter deal, with an, ahem, “amendment” to a 14 minute blow-torch emergency after the American crew member returned.
(I’m a fan of the Russian space program, but I think I know who’s telling the tall ones here)

Lithium perchlorate. Here’s a story on the fire.

The Master Speaks: If you lit a match in zero gravity, would it smother in its own smoke?

Perchlorate, perchloride, sodium, sulphur, geez people are picky about chemistry. ;-p

Johnny was the chemist’s son.
But now he is no more.
For what he thought was H[sub]2[/sub]O
was H[sub]2[/sub]SO[sub]4[/sub].
:eek: :wink:

“Little Johnny’s dead and gone; his face will see no more…”
I accidentally let on to my grade 7 chem teacher that I knew that rhyme… she made me recite it in front of the whole class. Twice! Oh the humiliation. :o

Lessee… must be relevant: I found this paper on fire suppression on the ISS. (with pics!) Points: as a last ditch deal they can depressurise a section, and both it and the shuttles have “fire suppression ports” where you hook up your extinguisher and it vents it right into the instrument package or what have you.