Scientists look to satellites made of wood to reduce 'space junk'

Space junk

Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry and Kyoto University have jointed forces to create what they believe will be the world's first satellite made out of wood. The idea behind this is the belief that wood does not interfere with electromagnetic waves or the Earth's magnetic field. While many private and government space agencies are trying to mitigate the risks of space junk, a Japanese company is developing a satellite made out of wood.

The researchers working on the project attempts to understand how wood performs to extreme environmental conditions both inside and outside the planet.

According to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), over 500,000 pieces of debris, or "space junk", orbit our planet Earth. Sure some, or even most, of these space junks might burn during re-entry; however, the remaining debris is still a threat to anyone or anything unlucky enough to be on its path. Thus, if antennae and control mechanisms are put inside a wooden box, it would not only reduce cost but would also allow a simpler structure.

Sumitomo Forestry is in the process of developing wooden materials that are highly resistant to changes in temperature and can flourish in the face of sunlight, which would equip the satellites to survive in space. Furthermore, wood contains organic compounds such as water that will evaporate in space, compromising its structural integrity.

Wooden satellite
Japan is developing wooden satellites to send into orbit by 2023 in an effort to cut down on space junk

He said that tiny particles of aluminium oxide will float in the upper atmosphere for "many years" and that they would "eventually affect the environment of the Earth". In fact, Doi was the first person to launch a specially designed boomerang into space. It could be effective in dealing with the growing concerns about space junk. According to the World Economic Forum, there are over 20,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 centimetres tracked in Earth's orbit and there are many more that are untracked. Elon Musk's SpaceX has launched nearly 900 of its high-speed internet Starlink satellites to date, and plans to eventually launch between 12,000 and 42,000. They announced that the satellite can be ready by 2023. The research is also meant to come up with a wooden material that can be used in construction in extreme environments here on Earth. And space junk travels at an incredible speed of more than 22,300 miles per hour - meaning even a tiny piece can do a great deal of damage, just like the tiny piece of space junk that collided with the ISS in 2006, taking a chip out of the heavily reinforced window.

The primary concern is debris hitting functioning satellites and the ISS.

In 2006 a tiny piece of space junk collided with the International Space Station, taking a chip out of the heavily reinforced window.

Also read: European Space Agency has the ideal fix for space junk - a claw!


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