Japan Pioneers Sustainable Space Exploration with Launch of World’s First Wooden Satellite

Japan Pioneers Sustainable Space Exploration with Launch of World’s First Wooden Satellite

In a groundbreaking step towards more sustainable space exploration, Japanese researchers are set to launch the world’s first wooden satellite this September.

Developed by a team at Kyoto University in collaboration with logging company Sumitomo Forestry, the LignoSat is a 10-centimeter cube crafted from magnolia wood. It aims to pave the way for eco-friendly satellites that burn entirely up upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

japan space environment materials

The LignoSat project began in April 2020, with researchers testing various types of wood for their durability in harsh space conditions. Magnolia emerged as the top choice for its strength and workability. Using traditional Japanese joinery techniques, the satellite’s wooden panels are held together without the use of screws or glue.

Weighing just 2.2 pounds (1 kg), LignoSat has solar panels, sensors, and an aluminium frame to house its electronic components. “Satellites that are not made of metal should become mainstream,” said Takao Doi, an astronaut and professor at Kyoto University leading the project.

LignoSat is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) in September. About a month later, it will be deployed into orbit from the station’s Kibo module. Over six months to a year, sensors onboard will measure the wooden structure’s response to the space environment, including expansion, contraction, and degradation. Temperature, cosmic radiation, and the performance of onboard electronics will also be monitored.

One of the satellite’s key goals is to test the potential of wooden satellites to reduce space debris. When conventional satellites re-enter the atmosphere, they can release harmful particles of aluminium and other metals. In contrast, LignoSat is designed to burn up, leaving no debris behind altogether.

The successful launch and operation of LignoSat could open up new possibilities for sustainable space exploration. With the number of satellite launches expected to increase dramatically in the coming years, finding alternatives to metal construction is crucial for minimizing the environmental impact of space debris.

Beyond satellites, the LignoSat team envisions using wood to construct habitats on the Moon and Mars. Wood’s insulating properties and ability to shield against radiation make it an intriguing material for extraterrestrial pioneers. “We aim to build human habitats using wood in space, such as on the moon and Mars, in the future,” said Professor Doi.

As the world watches, LignoSat’s launch this fall will mark an exciting chapter in the push for greener, more sustainable space exploration. If successful, this small wooden cube could be the first step towards a future where biodegradable materials play a crucial role in humanity’s journey to the stars.


  • Japan is launching the world’s first wooden satellite, LignoSat, in September 2024
  • Developed by Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry using magnolia wood
  • Will test wood’s performance in space and potential to reduce debris
  • Could pave the way for sustainable satellites and wooden structures on the Moon/Mars
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