Launch of the world’s 1st “wooden” satellite scheduled for Japan in 2023

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A plan is underway in Japan to launch the world’s first “wooden” satellite in 2023, as its development team aims to harness environmental friendliness and the low cost of wood in space development.

A satellite with a wooden exterior will burn when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere after its operation is complete, reducing the environmental burden, according to the team from Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry Co.

In addition, it will be cheaper to manufacture than using aluminum, the current dominant material for a satellite. Since electromagnetic waves can penetrate wood, the satellite may contain an antenna inside.

The photo shows a “wooden” satellite that Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry Co. hope to launch in 2023. (Photo courtesy Kyoto University) (Kyodo)

The planned satellite will be a cube 10 centimeters apart. Its exterior will be covered with wood and solar cells, and it will contain an electronic substrate inside.

The Public University of Western Japan and the Tokyo-based wood products company are expected to test the durability of wood in space, possibly from February, using an extravehicular experimental device from the International Space Station.

The team, led by Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Takao Doi, plans to attach sheets of wood of varying hardness, from several species of trees, to the device. The leaves will remain exposed to the space for approximately nine months to check for deterioration.

Doi, a professor specializing in a program at Kyoto University, said if the plan was successful, it would pave the way for “allowing even children interested in space to make a satellite.”

Doi became the first Japanese astronaut to participate in extravehicular activities when he boarded the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997.


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