Japanese scientists develop world’s first wooden satellite

Japanese scientists develop world’s first wooden satellite
via TomoNews US
Ryan General
February 22, 2024
Japanese scientists are set to launch the world’s first wooden satellite, helping mitigate space pollution caused by traditional metallic spacecraft.
The wood that could: Constructed with magnolia wood, the coffee mug-sized LignoSat probe was developed by researchers at Kyoto University in collaboration with logging company Sumitomo Forestry, reported The Guardian. The material was chosen for demonstrating resilience and stability during extensive testing that included trials aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Koji Murata, the project’s lead scientist, highlighted the wood’s remarkable ability to withstand harsh space environments. He attributed this to the lack of oxygen in space that could cause wood to burn, and the lack of living organisms that would cause it to decompose.
Driving the innovation: The idea for the project stems from growing concerns about the environmental impact of traditional satellites that are typically constructed out of aluminum. Such satellites release alumina particles into the Earth’s upper atmosphere upon re-entry, potentially affecting the ozone layer. Wooden satellites could minimize environmental harm as they burn into biodegradable ash upon re-entry. 
What’s next: According to Murata, LignoSat will need to operate in space for at least six months before it can enter the upper atmosphere. The tiny satellite is expected to undergo extensive testing during its orbital mission.
“One of the missions of the satellite is to measure the deformation of the wooden structure in space,” Murata told The Guardian’s Observer. “Wood is durable and stable in one direction but may be prone to dimensional changes and cracking in the other direction.”
The researchers are considering launching the LignoSat probe via a flight on an Orbital Sciences Cygnus supply ship to the ISS this summer or a SpaceX Dragon mission scheduled later this year. If successful, the project could pave the way for widespread adoption of wood as a viable construction material for more sustainable satellites in the future.
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