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Spacecraft smoke detectors must detect different types of smoke. For example, hydrocarbon fuels typically produce soot and plastics produce droplets of recondensed polymer fragments. While paper and silicone rubber produce smoke comprised of liquid droplets of recondensed pyrolysis products. Each of these materials produces a different type of smoke, with particles of various sizes and properties.

SAME will assess the size and distribution of smoke particles produced by different types of material found on spacecraft such as, Teflon, Kapton, cellulose and silicone rubber. SAME will evaluate the performance of the ionization smoke detectors (used on Space Shuttles), evaluate the performance of the photoelectric smoke detectors (used on the ISS) and collect data for which a numerical formula can be developed and used to predict smoke droplet growth and to evaluate alternative smoke detection devices on future spacecraft.

Research Summary

Fire is commonly detected by measuring changes in the amount of airborne microscopic particles (one of the components of smoke).

Smoke detectors currently in use on ISS and Space Shuttle are based on detectors used on Earth that detect different sizes of smoke particles.

SAME will measure the distribution of particle sizes in smoke from on-orbit combustion of several materials found in the spacecraft. Testing will also examine the effects of sample temperature, air flow and smoke residence time (near the source) on the particle size distribution of the smoke.

Results will allow an evaluation of the performance in microgravity of the two existing U.S. spacecraft smoke detector designs, in use on the Shuttle and ISS, and evaluate other fire detection devices.

Information from this experiment will improve the design requirements for and reliability of smoke detectors on future spacecraft.

Space Applications

The SAME experiment will provide technology for an advanced fire detector for future spacecraft that will be used for long duration missions. SAME will provide quantitative data on the sensitivity of these detectors to reduced gravity smokes that will allow evaluation of the adequacy of these existing technologies using relevant data. The current Fire Prevention, Detection, and Suppression (FPDS) program plan allows for the re-evaluation of future sensor technology, to allow new technology and capability to be utilized. The results from SAME are needed to provide the reduced gravity baseline data against which future detection technology developments can be evaluated.

Earth Applications

The smoke detectors developed from the results of SAME can also be useful in other extreme environments on Earth, such as submarines or underwater laboratories. Accurate detection of smoke in these environments can save lives.