The 2,129th Meeting of the Society

March 9, 2001

Fire in Space

Gregory T. Linteris

Fire Science Division, NIST

About the Lecture

The Microgravity Sciences Mission (MSL-1), STS-83, was the first space shuttle mission devoted largely to combustion science, with over 150 on-board fires planned for the 16-day flight. The STS-83 mission was cut short due to concerns over performance of one of the three power-generating fuel cells, with the crew returning to earth after only 4 days in space. NASA re-flew the mission three months later as STS-94, which became the first mission in the history of manned space flight in which the same crew flew together again in space; it was also NASA's fastest turn-around of the shuttle to date. STS-94 became a phenomenally successful spacelab flight. Greg Linteris, the combustion science Payload Specialist on the flights, will share his experiences on the missions.

About the Speaker

Dr. Linteris is presently the leader for the priority project on Next Generation Fire Suppression in the Fire Sensing and Extinguishment Group, and the task leader for the Combustion By-Products section of the Agency Compatibility project. Before joining NIST in 1992, Dr. Linteris was on the research staff at the University of California, San Diego, where he performed analytical and numerical studies on the structure of N2O/CO and H2/NO2 flames at low pressure in order to develop reduced mechanisms for the reaction kinetics important in the deflagration region of some solid rocket propellants. He also performed experimental and analytical studies of the life and drag forces on heptane droplets in unsteady, nonuniform flow. Dr. Linteris' Ph.D. research, at the Fuels Research Laboratory at Princeton University, was in the area of high-temperature chemical kinetics. During his first year, he studied the oxidation of n-butyl benzene in a turbulent chemical kinetic flow reactor. In his last three years, he developed a laser absorption system and a novel 180° laser-induced fluorescence probe for remote, trace radical concentration measurements—the first ever in the Princeton flow reactor, and used these to study the moist CO oxidation reaction. Dr. Linteris has been a reviewer for major journals in combustion, has presented a number of papers at national and international scientific meetings, and has authored or co-authored 8 refereed and 15 unrefereed scientific publications.


President McDiarmid called the 2129th meeting to order at 8:18 p.m. on March 9, 2001. The Recording Secretary read the minutes of the 2128th meeting and they were approved. The speaker for the 2129th meeting was Gregory T. Linteris, of the Fire Science Division, National Institutes of Science and Technology. The title of his presentation was “Fire in Space”. On April 4,1997, the Microgravity Sciences Mission (MSL-1) was launched on STS-83 as the first space lab shuttle mission devoted largely to research on combustion in microgravity. Half of the experiments scheduled for the 16-day mission involved combustion with more than 150 on-board fires planned. However, there was a problem with one of the three fuel cells and it had to be shut down because of the unanticipated fire hazard. To conserve power the crew was compelled to work using small flashlights. The mission was cut short, and the crew returned to earth after 95 hours, 12 minutes, traveling 1.5 million miles in 63 orbits. NASA decided to refly the mission with the same crew as soon as possible. In the fastest turn-around of a shuttle, STS-94 was launched three months later on July 1, 1997. Eventually, MSL-1 was an especially successful spacelab mission. It went the scheduled 16 days, lasting 376 hours, 45 minutes, and traveled 6.3 million miles in 251 orbits. Some of the materials and combustion microgravity studies conducted by Greg Linteris as the Payload Specialist Astronaut involved flame structure, droplet burning, soot formation, and the behavior of molten metal. Because some experiments had been conducted on STS-83 despite the power shortage, it was possible to redesign those that had encountered unexpected difficulties and improve the rate of successful completion. Other experiments on MSL-1 involved protein crystallization, green house testing, and acoustic levitation of droplets. A video was shown of the preliminary training and of both missions. Mr. Linteris kindly answered questions from the floor. President McDiarmid thanked Mr. Linteris for the society, and welcomed him to its membership. Board member Tom Mueller briefly spoke on the benefits of Philosophical Society membership. The President made announcements about the next meeting, parking, and refreshments, and adjourned the 2129th meeting to the social hour at 9:30 p.m. Attendance: 33 Temperature: 4.9°C Weather: partly cloudy Links: Respectfully submitted, John S. Garavelli Recording Secretary