NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have joined forces to develop and launch the world’s first wooden satellite, called LignoSat. This innovative initiative aims to make spaceflight more sustainable. The satellite, which is about the size of a coffee mug, will be constructed using magnolia wood.
Wood offers unique advantages in space as it does not burn or rot in the vacuum. However, upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, it will incinerate into a fine ash, making it a promising material for biodegradable satellites. Earlier this year, the scientists successfully tested wood samples aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to determine the feasibility of the project.
The researchers sent three wood samples—magnolia, cherry, and birch—to the ISS and exposed them to the harsh environment of outer space for ten months. After thorough analysis, they selected magnolia as the ideal wood for the satellite due to its durability during the manufacturing process.
The primary objective of using wooden satellites is to address the growing concern of space debris. Currently, more than 9,300 tons of space objects, including defunct satellites and rocket parts, orbit Earth. These objects, made mostly of metals like titanium and aluminum, contribute to light pollution, hindering observations of distant space phenomena.
Wooden satellites like LignoSat are expected to be less harmful as space junk, as they will naturally degrade upon reentry into the atmosphere. Moreover, constructing spacecraft from wood is cost-effective and reduces the risk of damage to the International Space Station, other manned spacecraft, and potential hazards for humans on Earth.
The launch for LignoSat is scheduled for summer 2024, marking a significant step towards achieving sustainability in space exploration.