Japan Set to Launch World’s First Wooden Satellite to Combat Space Junk

engineering careers  Japan Set to Launch World’s First Wooden Satellite to Combat Space Junk

The growing number of satellites and space debris in orbit is becoming a significant environmental threat. When metal spacecraft re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, they release harmful aluminium particles. However, scientists from Japan have come up with an ingenious solution – a wooden satellite that could offer a more eco-friendly alternative for future space missions.

Dubbed LignoSat2, the nanosatellite is constructed primarily from magnolia wood and is scheduled to launch aboard a NASA rocket this summer in a collaborative mission with JAXA, the Japanese space agency. The historic flight will demonstrate that wood can withstand the harsh conditions of launch and prolonged exposure to the space environment without deteriorating.


The LignoSat2 mission is a continuation of the research conducted by scientists at Kyoto University’s Space Wood Laboratory. They tested different types of wood in extreme conditions, simulating the space environment. The team conducted experiments in laboratories on Earth and later on the International Space Station (ISS), analyzing the wood samples for any signs of cracking, warping, or changes in mass and material properties.

What Wood Would a Wooden Satellite Use?

Birch, Japanese cherry and magnolia specimens trialled over 240 days aboard the ISS, with magnolia was found to be most dimensionally stable and resistant to the stresses of repeated thermal cycling, radiation exposure and vibration.

Post-analysis showed minimal degradation or damage, leading researchers to select magnolia as the primary structural material for LignoSat2 based on its workability, strength and durability.

The cube-shaped wooden satellite measures just 10 cm per side but packs in several experiments to quantify the performance of its history-making hull during its mission. Onboard sensors will monitor temperature, structural deformation, and the effects of radiation on the wood over an intended lifetime of at least 6 months in a low Earth orbit. Images will also be captured to inspect for any cracking or damage to the surface visually.

Beyond proving the resilience of wood to the harsh reality of space, a vital purpose of the LignoSat2 demonstration is to pioneer more sustainable alternatives to conventional aluminium-based satellites.

The team behind the CubeSat warn that the increasing volume of spacecraft and debris surrounding Earth will eventually lead to a space junk crisis, with higher risks of collision and even more uncontrolled particles spat out from every crash. Aluminum ejected into the thermosphere and ionosphere layers can have detrimental climate effects by interfering with ozone chemistry for decades after burn-up. In contrast, wooden satellites would decompose cleanly and pose no threat of lingering atmospheric pollution.

If the upcoming mission meets success criteria, demonstrating stable operation and minimal degradation before the nanosat is disposed of after its primary mission, the door opens to adopting wood more widely in spacecraft construction. Researchers also envision that the technology could enable specialized instruments such as wooden parabolic antennas, which take advantage of wood’s beneficial radio frequency characteristics.

More widespread adoption would facilitate satellite designs with greater environmental sustainability from pre-launch manufacturing through end-of-life disposal. Although follow-on engineering challenges around optimizing these hybrid material satellites remain, the pioneering LignoSat2 launch signals a new era in ecologically mindful space technology.


  • Japan to launch first ever wooden satellite, LignoSat2, constructed from magnolia wood
  • Experiments aboard the ISS have proven that wood can withstand space conditions without deterioration
  • The launch aims to demonstrate a solution to combat metal space junk with eco-friendly designs
  • Onboard sensors will quantify the wooden hull’s performance during a 6+ month mission
  • Success could enable more sustainable satellites and space instruments