NASA and Japan are preparing to launch a wooden satellite – DW – 11/23/2023

American and Japanese scientists, led by Kyoto University in an international project, are preparing to launch the world’s first artificial wood satellite in a joint mission. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) And NASA next summer.

Called LignoSat, this innovative satellite, which is the size of a coffee cup, represents an environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional aluminum satellites currently orbiting the Earth.

After testing the durability of wood in space earlier this year International Space Station (ISS), The research team announced that space wood, specifically magnolia, showed minimal degradation and remarkable stability.

Space debris problem

Although it may seem like an unusual choice, scientists say the wood is well-suited to withstand space conditions. It does not burn or rot in the vacuum of space, but is able to turn to ash upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, making it a useful biodegradable material to address the growing space debris problem.

This takes into account in particular the expected increase in the number of satellites in the coming years: currently about 10,590 satellites orbit the Earth, of which about 8,800 are still in operation. In total, the mass of all space objects in Earth’s orbit reaches more than 11 thousand tons.

“When using wood on Earth, problems of burning, rotting and deformation arise, but in space these problems do not exist: in space there is no oxygen, so it does not burn, and there are no organisms living in it, and therefore what does not rot.” He explains to CNN Koji Murata, a researcher at Kyoto University who worked on the project, adds that its strength by weight is roughly equivalent to that of aluminum.

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during tests on the international space station, According to Kyoto University press release Samples of magnolia, cherry, and birch trees were exposed to harsh conditions in outer space, including temperature changes, cosmic radiation, and solar particles, without showing major deformities or changes.

The experiment results confirmed the absence of mass changes in each wood sample before and after spatial exposure and also confirmed the absence of decay or deformations, such as cracks, warping, chipping or surface damage.

Ultimately, the researchers settled on magnolia because it is less likely to split or break during manufacturing.

In addition to its environmental sustainability, it has been speculated that wood could be a viable option for spacecraft interiors, providing additional protection for astronauts from harmful radiation.

An unknown that must be resolved

Despite the theoretical advantages of the innovative material, wooden space structures still raise many unknowns, as Tatsuhito Fujita, an engineer at the Japanese space agency JAXA, involved in the evaluation of the LignoSat project, explains to CNN.

“Use of natural resources for space devices [tiene sentido] “From a sustainable development goals perspective, but since wood has never been used in satellites, we cannot say what kind of benefit we can get at this time,” explains Fujita.

Now, that’s exactly what scientists want to test: prove the suitability of other materials for use in space. Therefore, with the launch of the artificial wood satellite scheduled for 2024, the research group will continue to study the basic mechanism of nanoscale degradation of the material, with the hope of developing strong, high-performance woods for future space applications.

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Now we just have to wait and see how the magnolia flower will behave in the vacuum of space. Who knows, maybe the spaceships of the future will look more like secluded, secluded cabins in the rural mountain landscape.

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