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Monday, January 03, 2022

Finally, Manufacturing in Space

Had long heard about this being a big reason for going into space, now details of some serious movement.

These Robotic Factories Will Make Supermaterials in Space

By Jason Dorrier    in SingularityHub

By rocket, drone, and giant centrifuge, humans are getting better at hurling just about anything into space. There’s a Tesla Roadster cruising around somewhere beyond Mars, and William Shatner went suborbital this year. Meanwhile, plans for private space stations are underway, and if new startup, Space Forge, is successful, orbital factories will join them.

The UK company, spun up last year in a garage in Cardiff, recently raised £7.6 million ($10.2 million) to build robotic satellites that manufacture materials impossible to produce on Earth. Space Forge’s reusable ForgeStar satellites will orbit for one to six months before returning home with their precious cargo intact and ready for recovery.

“Earth is a wonderful place to live on but terrible for manufacturing so many things,” cofounder and CEO Joshua Western told The Guardian. “You have to fight gravity and the dense atmosphere while trying not to cause pollution. But in space you have no gravity to interfere with the mixing of materials, while you have a pure vacuum and no atmospheric pollution. And you also turn your instruments towards or away from the Sun to heat or cool them rapidly.”

The company is building on years of experiments flown on the International Space Station. As early as 1998, scientists showed a special kind of fiber optics, called ZBLAN, were of significantly higher quality when produced in microgravity. Compared to silica-based fiber optics, high-quality ZBLAN cables can carry more wavelengths of light (and therefore information) with far less signal lost along the way. When produced on Earth, ZBLAN develops a cloudy crystal lattice, but made in space, it’s crystal clear.  ... ' 

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