The Japanese have developed the first satellite made of wood, and it will launch into space soon

The Japanese have developed the first satellite made of wood, and it will launch into space soon

Scientists at Kyoto University in Japan have succeeded in developing a satellite made of magnolia wood, the first of its kind in the world. Using this machine, they want to reduce pollution in space as there are at least 9,300 tons of space objects in orbit. The test satellite “LignoSat” is scheduled to reach space before the summer.

Towards the conquest of ecological space? To better understand climate change, scientists are increasingly turning to satellites. But these steel machines, in orbit around Earth, are also a significant source of pollution. According to estimates by the European Space Agency (ESA), there are about a million pieces of satellite or rocket debris larger than one centimeter in orbit, large enough to “disable a spacecraft.” This represents at least 9,300 tons of space objects, according to the agency’s report.

In the face of this observation, Japan seems to want to take the initiative by launching environmental satellites. Concretely, researchers from Kyoto University have developed a satellite made of magnolia wood. This is the first of its kind in the world, and should be launched into space before the summer.

Magnolia wood

This project, with support from NASA, was developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) which wants to send the world's first wooden satellite into space. This mission aims to make spaceflight more sustainable. The test satellite “Lignosat” developed by researchers at Kyoto University, which is no larger than a coffee cup, should reach Earth's orbit before the summer of 2024.

How researchers decided to use magnolia wood. Being biodegradable, the wood, when it reaches the end of its life, will allow the LignoSat to completely decompose in the atmosphere. But to find out which type of tree to choose, samples from three specimens (magnolia, cherry, and birch) were sent back in early 2023 aboard the International Space Station (ISS). During their ten-month mission, these samples were placed in a module exposed to the harsh environment of space. After this experiment, Japanese researchers decided to use magnolia wood, which is known for its durability.

“No roar”

In order to reduce space pollution as well as Earth pollution, the LignoSat satellite will be “waste-free” according to scientists. You should know that bright metals, such as titanium or aluminum, used in satellite frames can be a source of significant light pollution. While in Earth's orbit, these minerals increase the overall brightness of the night sky over much of the Earth by 10%. This reduction in light pollution would help in monitoring distant space phenomena.

Thanks to these biodegradable satellites, many risks are avoided according to researchers at Kyoto University. For them, the deterioration of the machine structure makes it possible to reduce accidents in orbit and prevent debris from collapsing on the planet. Human lives can thus be saved, on Earth and in space.

Japanese probe launched to inspect space debris

Japan seems very committed to protecting space. Like on Monday, a Japanese company announced the successful launch of what it considers the first spacecraft with the mission of examining waste in orbit, which is increasing in number and potentially dangerous.

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An active debris removal mission by Astroscale-Japan (Adras-J) is to find and examine the remains of a Japanese H-IIA rocket that has been floating in space for 15 years, private Japanese company Astroscale explained.

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