Two portable water mist fire extinguishers have arrived in space!

Published:  15 January, 2016

The portable fire extinguishers took 18 years to be developed by the Colorado School of Mines and ADA Technologies.

In December 2015 two of the first nine units were sent to the International Space Station to replace the carbon dioxide units on board.

According to Dr Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Centre for Space Resources, three more launches are scheduled in Spring to carry another seven units to the ISS.

After several years of research, testing, and conducting experiments on a variety of NASA flight facilities (including drop towers, low-gravity aircraft, and a Space Shuttle experiment in 2003), researchers and students from the Colorado School of Mines found water mist fire suppression technology to be more efficient and suitable for extinguishing spacecraft fires than any other suppression agent.

Chemical and Biological Engineering Emeritus Professor Thomas McKinnon and former Assistant Research Professor Edward Riedel, along with Abbud-Madrid started working on this project in 1997 in an effort to find an environmentally friendly replacement of harmful chemical fire-suppression agents for terrestrial and space applications.

Mechanical Engineering Professor Robert Kee later helped with the development of a numerical model to predict the optimum droplet size and water concentration to effectively suppress fires.

After these encouraging results, Mines partnered with Littleton-based ADA Technologies to develop several prototype water mist portable fire extinguishers for spacecraft applications.

By 2011, following concerns on the compatibility of carbon dioxide extinguishers with the emergency breathing equipment on the ISS, NASA recommended the use of  water mist fire extinguishers to mitigate this operational risk.

Mines and ADA then collaborated with three NASA centres (Johnson, Glenn, and White Sands) to design and test the spaceflight units. Subsequently, Wyle Engineering and Flexial Corp manufactured and certified all portable fire extinguishers for flight.

It is expected that the adoption of this technology on board the ISS will lead to water mist become the preferred fire suppression agent of choice for other human-rated spacecraft.

‘It has been quite a ride throughout all these 18 years to come to this point. Let's now hope that the final ride for these PFEs to the space station is a smooth and successful one,’ said Abbud-Madrid.

Dr. Angel Abbud-Madrid will be presenting on the water mist extinguishers during the 16th International Water Mist Conference in Vienna, Austria, 21-22 September 2016. Fore more information visit

  • Operation Florian

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