The World’s First Wooden Satellite

The World’s First Wooden Satellite

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The LignoSat2 wooden satellite is an innovative concept on the brink of becoming a reality and might be launched in late 2024 by NASA and JAXA.

According to Interesting Engineering, the story began after scientists from Kyoto University successfully tested wood samples at the International Space Station. The LignoStella Space Wood Project aimed to examine the endurance of three wood kinds in space (Erman’s birch, Japanese cherry, and magnolia bovate), which were subjected to space environment testing for over 290 days.

The samples underwent examinations upon their return to Earth, including strength testing and analyses of elemental composition and crystal structure. The top choice of wood turned out to be magnolia wood due to its high durability in space, relatively high workability, dimensional stability, and overall strength, and is expected to be used for the development of LignoSat2.

Space conditions are known to be extremely harsh, with significant temperature fluctuations, exposure to intense cosmic rays, and energetic solar particles. Nevertheless, even after ten months under these harsh conditions, the wood samples showed no breakdown or deformation like cracking, warping, peeling, or surface damage.

This begs the question, why build a satellite out of wood in the first place? This whole project is apparently meant to address the escalating problem of space pollution – an artificial wooden satellite like LignoSat may mitigate the production of minuscule, detrimental aluminum particles.

Satellites burn when they re-enter the Erath’s atmosphere, releasing tiny alumina particles that linger in the upper atmosphere. Not only this, but predictions indicate that the annual launch of metal-based satellites will only grow, and the excessive buildup of metal fragments could be a long-term hazard to the Earth’s ecology.

The researchers from Kyoto University set out to solve this issue and find a viable eco-friendly material to replace the metal of satellites. The project’s developers said in a press statement: “Ahead of the 2024 planned launch of a wooden artificial satellite, the research group is investigating the fundamental mechanism of nano-level material degradation. Their findings may lead to robust and high-functioning wood materials for new applications.”

When launched, the satellite will reportedly be equipped with various experiments to assess its performance during its orbital mission.