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Out of This World Fiber Optics

Photonics.com
Oct 2016
MOUNTAINVIEW, Calif., Oct. 31, 2016— Made in Space (MIS) produced the world’s first zero-gravity 3D printer, which has been aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for the past two years. Now, the company is attempting to make fiber optics in zero-gravity conditions via its MIS Fiber making machine.


Basic fiber optic light cable. Courtesy of SoniaCacoila, on flickr
"Historically, the commercial space industry has profited off of satellite telecommunications — sending ones and zeros back and forth. Made in Space’s in-space manufacturing activities expand the commercial envelope to making valuable goods there, too,” said MIS CEO Andrew Rush. “We believe in-space manufacturing of goods valuable to people on Earth will soon drive significant commercial activity in space, perhaps one day creating a space-based economic boom.”

For this project, MIS has teamed up with Thorlabs, which has been working on the quality of heavy-metal glass fiber ZBLAN for more than a decade. Manufacturing ZBLAN fiber optics on Earth has been difficult due to gravity causing imperfections to its structure.


The MIS Fiber making machine, to be launched next year.  Courtesy of Made in Space Inc.


Both companies believe ZBLAN has great potential for lower transmission losses than other materials normally used for telecommunication cables. They plan to launch the MIS Fiber making machine into space in early 2017.

Made in Space Inc. was founded in 2010 as a way to enable humanity’s future in space. It has developed additive manufacturing technology for use in zero-gravity. The company hopes to accelerate and broaden space development by constructing hardware that can build what is needed in space.


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