The Optical Fiber Cable Chemical Stripping Fixture
invented by John Kolasinski and Alexander Coleman, from NASA’s
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, has been selected
as the winner of the NASA Government Invention of the Year for

The invention is used to remove coatings surrounding tiny, as
small as 125 microns, optical fibers. Fiber coatings, such as
acrylate and polyimide, surround the glass fibers similar to
the way insulation covers a copper wire. The device prepares
optical fibers for termination to a connector by controlling
the removal of the coating. The fixture also provides control
over the stripping length.

“Optical fibers are used for very fast communication links
between electronic devices,” said Kolasinski, a senior
aerospace technology engineer at Goddard. “A major benefit of
the fixture is that it increases reliability over mechanical
techniques that nick fibers, saving time and money by reducing
repair and replacements.”

Coleman, a senior electronics technician in the Electrical
Systems Branch at Goddard’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops
Island, VA, said traditional coating removal techniques are
based on mechanical wire stripping techniques that may scratch
or nick the very small glass fiber, resulting in a latent
defect and a reliability issue.

“Using this fixture decreases the likelihood of optical fiber
failures caused by nicks induced by mechanical stripping
methods,” added Coleman. “It could also benefit others by
helping to reduce optical fiber failures in connectors used
for systems such as those in the telephone or the Internet.
Anyone that builds fiber optic cables could use the device.”

Estimates indicate that with today’s telecommunications
revolution, close to 200 million feet of fiber-optic cable are
installed each year at a typical cost of $30 per foot.

The fixture has been used successfully on a number of NASA
projects including the X-Ray Timing Explorer (XTE), the
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, the Microwave Anisotropy
Probe, Earth Observing-1 and the Hubble Space Telescope’s
solid state recorder.

Kolasinski is responsible for NASA-wide space flight fiber
optic development efforts. His aerospace fiber optic
experience spans nearly 10 years and eight flight projects. He
holds two NASA patents for fiber optics fabrication devices,
four pending patent applications and several new technology

Coleman is currently working on the Ultra Long Duration
Balloon Program and on new technology called Unmanned Video
Sky Screening. Coleman holds two patents for fiber optics
fabrication devices.

Both men developed the tool while working on XTE. “We were
experiencing optical fiber failures in early space flight
fiber optic systems that were caused by glass fiber nicks
induced by mechanical stripping techniques,” Kolasinski said.
“This device uses chemicals and a controlled fixture, so we do
not have to worry about metal blades coming in contact with
and nicking a small optical fiber.” He added the tool will
work with many different types of fiber systems and any
operator terminating a specific connector can consistently
strip the same length of fiber for that termination providing
high reliability and a quality product.

The RIFOCS Corp. in Camarillo, CA, has already purchased the
license from NASA to use this device in their in-house
programs. Other companies that work with certain types of
fiber optic systems also are looking at obtaining a license.

“When I was officially notified I couldn’t believe it,” said
Coleman. “I just about fell off my chair. I had to call John
right away and let him know.”

“I guess I still don’t believe that Alex and myself are NASA
government invention of the year winners,” Kolasinski said.
“There are very few people in the history of NASA to receive
this award and I am extremely honored to be one of those.”

The winners will be honored at the Invention of the Year Award
ceremony scheduled for Friday, May 4, at 10 a.m. EDT, NASA
Headquarters, 300 E. St. SW, Washington, DC.