Japanese researchers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are collaborating with NASA to launch the world’s first wooden satellite. The satellite, named LignoSat, is made from magnolia wood and is approximately the size of a coffee mug. The launch is scheduled to take place by the summer of 2024.
Using wood for satellites offers several advantages. Wood is lightweight, strong, durable, and biodegradable. Unlike metal satellites, wooden satellites do not contribute to the problem of space junk. When a wooden satellite reenters the Earth’s atmosphere, it incinerates into a fine ash instead of adding to the clutter in space.
In addition to its sustainability benefits, wood is also less expensive than traditional satellite materials like titanium and aluminium. Although wood is vulnerable to moisture damage and the harsh environment of outer space, the researchers have conducted tests on three wood samples aboard the International Space Station (ISS). These samples were exposed to the space environment for 10 months and showed no signs of deformation, decomposition, or damage. This indicates that magnolia wood is suitable for use in satellites.
The launch of LignoSat marks a significant step towards the development of more sustainable spacecraft. It opens up possibilities for wood to be used in various space applications. NASA and JAXA are actively working on other initiatives to make spaceflight more sustainable, including the development of cleaner rocket fuels and more efficient spacecraft designs. In the future, wood could be used to build a range of spacecraft, such as satellites, space stations, and even spaceships.