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SBIR/STTR

Universal Orbital Material Processing Module, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

To address NASA need for sustainable space operations and full utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) and specifically to advance the "Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems and Manufacturing" Physical Optics Corporation (POC) proposes to develop a new Universal Orbital Material Processing Module (UniMatPro), an orbital scientific payload that will be capable of optical fiber draw on board ISS. The specific product of this development is "ZBLAN", an optical fiber based on a fluoride glass composition. Due to its unique transmission from ultraviolet to midwave infrared, ZBLAN has immediate applications ranging from medical fiber lasers to military airplane countermeasures. ZBLAN glass and glass fibers, when produced on Earth, exhibit excessive insertion loss due to crystallization; however, this crystallization can be suppressed in zero gravity. Low down-mass and the high value of low-loss ZBLAN fiber make it an ideal candidate for commercial ISS utilization. In Phase I POC will design the processing unit for ZBLAN fiber manufacturing on the ISS based on a novel draw process without recoating. We will demonstrate the feasibility of battery-powered wireless operation for a TRL-4 prototype, achieving TRL 6-8 by the end of Phase II, followed by an opportunity to expand the UniMatPro module utilization for processing other prospective materials. More »

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