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IPFS News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

The Best Place to Make Undersea Cables Might Be ... in Space


Last month, the startup Made in Space gave NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine an elaborate show of its orbit-bound automation. Like the Fates pinching the thread of life, a robotic arm unspooled a thin copper wire for a self-assembling satellite dish. Nearby, a plastic bar, carved as a lattice to shrink its weight, stretched across the ceiling, demonstrating how a 3D printer might eventually crank out rods for massive solar panels. Designed for use in space, the idea is that a satellite would print and assemble its unwieldy power supply once in orbit, rather than bringing it along from Earth. In July, Made In Space received a $74 million investment from NASA to send up such a satellite, dubbed the Archinaut, in 2022.

But perhaps the most valuable product of Made in Space, at least anytime soon, lay unassuming on a nearby table: a coil of wires, stuffed inside a plastic bag, that looked like it should plug into one of the fancy 3D printers or robots around it. The wire, called ZBLAN, is a niche form of fiber-optic material that Made In Space plans to start selling in small quantities next year.