The primary NASA application of the proposed UniMatPro module is commercial product manufacturing onboard the ISS. Such commercial utilization of ISS capabilities will align the existing commercial manufacturing needs on Earth with ISS material science development goals and will ensure continuous expansion of critical manufacturing capabilities on orbit. Specific commercial model development for ZBLAN optical fiber manufacturing in combination with up-and-down the orbit delivery of materials and products in the UniMatPro effort will serve as a backbone for evaluation and implementation of the next generation of manufacturing capabilities on board the ISS. The resulting ZBLAN optical fiber product of UniMatPro development will have unique optical transmission, from ultraviolet to the midwave infrared, that will be utilized in NASA remote sensing, hyperspectral imaging, atmospheric monitoring, and optical data communications.
The applications of the UniMatPro low-loss ZBLAN fiber will include infrared countermeasures for protection of military and civil airborne platforms from heat-seeking missiles, midinfrared lasers for medical, industrial, and military applications and next-generation optical communications. The immediate need of the U.S. Air Force and Navy for midwave infrared laser sources will be addressed through the active ZBLAN fiber manufacturing on orbit, which would allow fiber laser manufacturing for this challenging spectral range. Low-loss midwave infrared transmitting fibers will enable fiber energy delivery for emerging quantum cascade lasers for remote optical sensing and material processing applications in the spectral range of resonant vibration absorption of a variety of essential materials, thereby expanding overall industrial capabilities in process control, safety, and environmental monitoring. The possibility of the insertion loss reduction in ZBLAN fibers beyond the existing state of the art can also revolutionize optical communications.