Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

February 29, 2024

Scientists are using wood of all things to build a satellite and launch it to orbit

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,My Thoughts,Science Related — Suramya @ 9:08 PM

When people talk about strong materials that can be used to make durable satellites wood is nowhere even close to being considered. I mean come on, the image people (including me) have in their mind of wood is that it is something not too strong and for the most part is not durable. However, NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are set to prove that is not the case and are planning to launch the world’s first wooden satellite into space. Yes, you did read that correctly; they are planning to use wood to make a satellite instead of Stainless Steel or titanium which will make the process a lot more sustainable. LignoSat is a coffee mug-size satellite made from magnolia wood and will be launched into orbit sometime during the Summer of 2024. Wood has an advantage over other materials in that it will burn up into ash during reentry into the atmosphere without releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere (which is what happens when Steel or Titanium reenters the atmosphere and burns up).

To verify the feasibility of using the material Kyoto University researchers sent samples of magnolia, cherry and birch up to the International Space Station and exposed it to space for 10 months, after which tests were run against the samples and when they confirmed that there was no decomposition or deformation in the samples it gave them confidence to move ahead with the project. LignoSat will be made using the wood from magnolia trees primarily because of the relative ease of working with it, dimensional stability, and overall strength as compared to the other candidates.

Another advantage of a wooden satellite is that it is less reflective than other materials which means that it would reduce the amount of ambient light pollution that astronomers have been complaining about over the past few years. Especially since the Starlink low orbit satellites were launched. Wood is also easier to grow so the overall cost might be lower.

One potential problem with this approach would be that it will require a lot of wood which would mean that forests would be logged offsetting the environmental gains made by using wood. Assuming the test is successful, we can look forward to using wood in more places instead of non eco friendly materials. But I doubt that it would replace the traditional materials completely.

– Suramya

Source: Wood Working Network: Japan set to launch first wood satellite

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