Kyoto University’s Space Wood Laboratory said so. Develops the world’s first wooden satellite. Announces its launch for February 2024. LignoSat is a coffee cup-sized satellite made from magnolia wood. It is a joint project with the Japanese space agency (JAXA) and NASA.
Wood does not burn or rot in the lifeless vacuum of space. But it burns into fine ash upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. That is why it is a surprisingly useful and biodegradable material for future satellites. Wood samples were successfully tested aboard the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this year.
“Three wood samples were tested and showed no deformation after exposure to space.” The conclusion is in a statement in May, cited by Space.com. «The extreme environment of outer space involves significant temperature changes and exposure to intense cosmic rays and solar particles. But in 10 months, tests confirmed that there is no decomposition or deformation. “There are no cracks, warps, peeling or surface damage.”
To decide which wood to use, the scientists sent three samples of wood (magnolia, cherry or birch). They were stored in a module exposed to space. They chose magnolia because it is less likely to split or break during manufacturing.
More than 9,300 tons (8,440 metric tons) of space objects orbit Earth. They include space debris such as inoperative satellites and pieces of spent rocket stages. The shiny metals they are made of increase the overall brightness of the night sky by more than 10% on part of the planet. It is ambient light pollution that makes distant spatial phenomena more difficult to detect.
The first wooden satellite solves many problems. Spacecraft made of metal are also expensive and pose a threat to the ISS. They could be for other human-carrying spacecraft. If they are too big to survive re-entry, so are the people of Earth. According to researchers, wooden satellites like LignoSat should, in theory, be less harmful than space debris.