Made In Space To Manufacture Optical Fiber In Orbit
A microwave-sized factory is on its way to the International Space Station; it will make ZBLAN optical fiber in orbit.
(Microwave-sized fiber factory to ISS!)
"We believe that we're really on the verge of something truly amazing here, with kind of using space for industrial purposes for some of the very first times," Made In Space CEO Andrew Rush said during a news conference in late November...
"In space, ZBLAN optical fiber can be produced without these crystals, providing superior data-transmission capabilities compared to both Earth-produced ZBLAN and traditional silica-fiber optic lines," Made In Space representatives wrote in a description of the project. "This microgravity-produced fiber has numerous applications, including trans-Atlantic telecommunications, high-speed internet [and] lasers, as well as enhancing technologies in space."
The Made In Space machine will produce at least 330 feet (100 meters) of ZBLAN on this trial run, pulling the material like taffy from heated feedstock material.
Science fiction fans of course remember that Arthur C. Clarke suggested orbiting factories in his admirable 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise:
"...What is it?"
"The result of two hundred years of solid-state physics. For whatever good that does, it is a continuous pseudo-one dimensional diamond crystal - though it's not actually pure carbon. There are several trace elements in carefully controlled amounts. It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories, where there's no gravity to interfere with the growth process."
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