THE first-ever wooden satellite could be launched from Japan in 2023.
Japanese firm Sumitomo Forestry and Kyoto University have joined forces to develop a wooden satellite that will burn up more readily as its lifespan ends, without leaving debris or waste behind.
For the moment, the project involves researching wood-based materials and coatings capable of withstanding the extreme conditions of space.
The partners are studying the construction of specific wooden structures, notably using cedar and birch.
The project presents considerable technological challenges, starting with ensuring wood's resistance to the extreme temperatures of space and intense exposure to sunlight.
On paper, wood offers several advantages. For starters, it doesn't block electromagnetic waves. Wooden structures can therefore house antennae and other control mechanisms.
These structures will also be simpler to design and lighter than those required by current satellites. Moreover, when a wooden satellite finishes its mission, de-orbits and plunges back to Earth, it will burn up completely, without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or showering the ground or the sea with debris.