The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is planning to launch the world’s first wooden satellite. It is called LignoSat, into Earth’s orbit by the summer of 2024. The coffee mug-sized satellite is made from magnolia wood. A material that doesn’t burn or rot in space but turns into fine ash upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
When you think of wood, you might picture furniture made from magnolia, birch, or cherry. However, Japanese researchers are giving wood a whole new purpose. In a collaboration between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA, they’re set to launch the world’s first wooden satellite, called LignoSat, in the summer of 2024. This satellite is made from magnolia wood and is about the size of a coffee mug. It aims to address the issue of space junk.
Using wood for satellites offers several advantages. Wood is lightweight, strong, durable, and biodegradable. Unlike metal satellites, wooden ones, like LignoSat, won’t contribute to the problem of space debris. Additionally, wood is a more cost-effective material compared to traditional metals like titanium and aluminum.
The LignoSat project is part of a broader effort by JAXA to develop more sustainable space technologies. The agency is also working on developing satellites that are powered by renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
Despite wood’s vulnerability to moisture and the harsh conditions of outer space, the researchers have successfully addressed these challenges. They tested three wood samples aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for 10 months, and the wood showed no signs of deformation, decomposition, or damage. This indicates that magnolia wood is well-suited for satellite construction.
The launch of LignoSat marks a significant step towards developing more sustainable spacecraft. Beyond just satellites, researchers hope that wood could be used in various space applications, potentially revolutionizing space exploration. This initiative is part of broader efforts by NASA and JAXA to make spaceflight more sustainable, including the development of cleaner rocket fuels and more efficient spacecraft designs. In the future, wood may play a role in constructing a variety of spacecraft, from satellites to space stations and even spaceships.