The primary NASA application of the proposed ORFOM module is commercial product development and manufacturing onboard the ISS. Such commercial utilization of ISS capabilities will ensure continuous expansion of critical manufacturing capabilities on orbit. In combination with up/down-orbit delivery of materials, commercial development of ZBLAN optical fiber manufacturing will serve as a backbone for evaluation and implementation of the next-generation of manufacturing capabilities onboard the ISS. The resulting ZBLAN optical fiber product of ORFOM will have unique optical transmission, from UV to MWIR, which can be utilized in NASA's remote sensing, hyperspectral imaging, atmospheric monitoring, and environmental monitoring applications. In addition, ORFOM's rare-earth-doped single-mode ZBLAN fibers will make possible a new generation of high power, high efficiency eye-safe lasers for remote sensing and light detection and ranging (LIDAR) systems.
The commercial applications of the ORFOM low-loss ZBLAN fiber will include infrared countermeasures for protection of military and civil airborne platforms from heat-seeking missiles, eye-safe fiber lasers for medical, industrial, and military applications, and next-generation optical communications. The immediate need for MWIR laser sources will be addressed through the active ZBLAN fiber manufacturing on orbit, which would allow fiber laser manufacturing for the mid-IR spectral range. Low-loss MWIR transmitting fibers will enable fiber energy delivery for emerging quantum cascade lasers for remote optical sensing and material processing applications, thereby expanding overall industrial capabilities in process control, safety, and environmental monitoring. The possibility of low loss ZBLAN fibers beyond the existing state of the art can also revolutionize optical communications, and have use as 1.3 micron telecom amplifiers. The aerospace market represents the most significant market for doped fiber lasers emitting in the eye-safe 1.5 to 3 micron region, while the medical industry forms a major market for portable diagnostic equipment.