China has successfully performed the first in-orbit ignition test in the Mengtian space lab module's combustion cabinet, according to the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization (CSU) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
The test verified the functions of the combustion science experimental system of the space station and the accuracy and scientificity of the overall experimental process.
The experiment used methane as fuel and the two ignitions lasted about 30 seconds in total.
Prior to the experiment, with the cooperation of scientific researchers on Earth, astronauts mounted the ignition head in the gas experiment tool, which was then installed into the combustion chamber of the combustion cabinet.
The combustion cabinet then automatically completed a series of procedures such as the combustion environment gas configuration, fuel gas ejection, ignition head heating and ignition, parameter collection, optical diagnosis and the filtration cycle.
Images of the experiment snapped by a high-speed camera showed the shape of the methane premixed flame surrounded by the diffusion flame.
"As it is not affected by buoyancy force, the diffusion flame outside is shorter and rounder than that on the ground," said Liu Youcheng, a scientist involved in the combustion science experiment and an associate professor at Tsinghua University.
Liu added that the microgravity environment can exclude buoyancy convection and inhibit the sedimentation of particles or droplets, and the microgravity combustion experiment can provide insights into the development of combustion theories and models.
China has planned 10 research programs in the field of microgravity combustion science, including 79 experimental subjects, and is expected to complete more than 40 in-orbit combustion experiments by the end of 2023.
These experiments will provide the first batch of space station experimental data in the microgravity combustion field, and support the theoretical development of ground and space combustion applications and materials synthesis, according to the CAS.
Since the Mengtian lab module was placed into orbit, its scientific experiment cabinets have completed power supply checks, a basic function self-check, a function index test and parameter tuning, according to the He Yufeng, a researcher with the CSU.
"More than 50 tasks have been carried out, including extravehicular payload insulation and high-precision time-frequency cabinet and ultra-cold atomic cabinet vacuum preservation," He added.