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Satnews Daily
April 3rd, 2018

Made In Space to Manufacture Multi-Use Optical Crystals in Microgravity

Today’s computers and processors are approaching theoretical maximum data transmission capabilities, creating a demand for more efficient data-transmitting materials, such as optical crystals.

To further technology research and development into next-generation improvements, Made In Space, Inc. (MIS) is among the Phase II selectees under NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for the Industrialization Crystal Facility (ICF). The International Space Station-based device will manufacture space-enabled, multi-use optical crystals in microgravity.

Optoelectronic systems enable the use of quantum mechanical effects of light to create new computational operations. Due to convection and sedimentation, these optical crystals cannot be grown effectively on Earth, or in any gravity-rich environment. Occupying a standard express rack locker on the ISS, ICF will grow large, microgravity-dependent optical crystals. Potential applications include nonlinear optical single crystals and other large material formulations, such as bulk single-crystal thin films and high-temperature optical fiber.

In the Phase I effort, MIS and research partners determined which crystal formulations were most likely to see an improvement in size or quality in the microgravity environment. With the Phase II funding, MIS will develop ISS-compliant hardware for the experiment aboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, which serves as an ideal platform to explore whether industrial crystals can be grown in microgravity to larger sizes and/or improved quality as compared to terrestrial sources. The project has the potential for becoming an operational commercial facility in the near future.

MIS President and CEO Andrew Rush noted that the company is broadening their work on the ISS to include manufacturing additional types of space-enabled materials. This project can expand the use of the ISS into new product areas not previously investigated. This is a critical next step in the commercialization of LEO.