In the realm of space exploration, innovation is the key to progress. As we continue pushing the boundaries of technology and knowledge, we constantly seek new materials and methods to improve our space-bound devices’ efficiency, sustainability, and durability. One such innovation that has recently come to light is using wood to construct satellites. This surprising material choice is more plausible than it might initially seem.
In fact, a team of scientists from Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry have been working on a project called LignoSat, which aims to prove the viability of wood as a material for satellites.
A Sustainable Breakthrough in Space Economy
In a remarkable sustainability breakthrough in the space economy, scientists from Kyoto University and Japanese logging startup Sumitomo Forestry have demonstrated that wood might be a durable in-orbit material.
This project, known as LignoSat, has been in the works for a while now. The partnership was first announced in 2020, and in March of the following year, the team coupled up with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to send three types of wood to the International Space Station (ISS) to test each type’s off-world resilience.
“Wood’s ability to withstand simulated low earth orbit — or LEO — conditions astounded us,” Koji Murata, the leader of the effort and a Kyoto University researcher, said.
The samples were placed in JAXA’s Kibo module, where they stayed for roughly ten months. The results are finally in — apparently, it was a grand success.
Magnolia: The Ideal Space Wood
As far as the winning type of wood goes, Magnolia was the most resilient. The scientists confirmed there to be “no decomposition or deformations, such as cracking, warping, peeling, or surface damage” and almost no change in weight in the returned sample. That’s a remarkable feat, considering the harsh temperatures and high levels of radiation characteristic of the final frontier.
The research group conducted a preliminary inspection involving strength tests and elemental and crystal structural analyses of the wood samples retrieved from space. Despite the extreme environment of outer space involving significant temperature changes and exposure to intense cosmic rays and dangerous solar particles for ten months, tests confirmed no decomposition or deformations.
The LignoSat Project: A Step Towards Sustainable Satellites
Based on their findings, the research team determined that the upcoming LignoSat should be built using Magnolia wood due to its high workability and durability. The LignoSat project, a joint venture between Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry, aims to develop sustainable satellites using wood. The project derives its name from the fact that “ligno” means related to wood, while “stella” means star.
Wood can also help to improve small satellite, or CubeSat, designs. As electromagnetic waves penetrate wood, wooden satellites can use a simplified method to place parts such as antennas inside. Wood will also wholly burn up on re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Unlike the metals used for traditional satellites, it won’t release harmful substances like alumina particles.
The LignoSat project aims to launch its first wooden artificial satellite into orbit next year. This is only the first step in a game-changing materials journey for the future of small satellites.
The LignoSat project is a shining example of the innovative spirit that drives space exploration. By challenging conventional wisdom and daring to explore new possibilities, the team behind LignoSat is paving the way for more sustainable satellite construction and opening up a whole new realm of possibilities for space technology. As we look to the future, it’s clear that the innovation potential is as vast as space itself. Whether it’s wooden satellites or some other yet-to-be-discovered breakthrough, one thing is sure: the future of space exploration will surely be exciting and full of surprises.
- Scientists from Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry have been working on a project called LignoSat, which aims to use wood for satellites.
- The team sent three types of wood to the International Space Station (ISS) to test their resilience in space.
- Magnolia wood was the most resilient, showing no significant decomposition or deformations despite the harsh space environment.
- Due to its high workability and durability, the research team plans to build the upcoming LignoSat using Magnolia wood.
- Wood can improve small satellite designs as electromagnetic waves can penetrate it, allowing for a simplified design.
- Wood will completely burn up on re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, not releasing harmful substances like traditional satellite materials.
- The LignoSat project aims to launch its first wooden artificial satellite into orbit next year, marking a significant step towards sustainable satellite construction.