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NASA and Japan to Launch World’s First Wooden Satellite, Infra News, ET Infra

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NEW DELHI: Japan and the US are planning to launch the world’s first wooden satellite, the LignoSat probe, into space this summer.

This unusual spacecraft is made up of magnolia wood which, during the experiments, was found to be particularly stable and resistant to cracking. The wooden satellite was created by Japanese scientists and now the US has become a part of their mission as they finalized the satellite to be launched on a US rocket, The Guardian reported.

In a pioneering effort to address the growing issue of space debris, the researchers at Kyoto University in collaboration with the logging company Sumitomo Forestry built the timber satellite. They came up with the idea of using an alternative to metal, which are biodegradable material.

“All the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles, which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” Takao Doi, a Japanese astronaut and aerospace engineer with Kyoto University, warned recently. “Eventually, it will affect the environment of the Earth.”

To tackle the problem, Kyoto researchers set up a project to evaluate types of wood to determine how well they could withstand the rigours of space launches and lengthy flights in orbit around the Earth. The first tests were carried out in laboratories that recreated conditions in space, and wood samples were found to have suffered no measurable changes in mass or signs of decomposition or damage.

“Wood’s ability to withstand these conditions astounded us,” said Koji Murata, head of the project.

Why is it significant?

The most important thing is that it is a biodegradable material, which means it is environment friendly and the best alternative to non-biodegradable materials which can extinct in the next 2,000 years. This will re-ignite the hope that even after the extinction of non-biodegradable materials, the satellite and other things can work.

Recently, researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada, revealed that aluminum from re-entering satellites could cause serious depletion of the ozone layer which protects the Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and could also affect the amount of sunlight that travels through the atmosphere and reaches the ground, according to the Guardian.

However, this should not be a problem with satellites built of wood, like LignoSat, which, when it burns up as it re-enters the atmosphere after completing its mission, will produce only a fine spray of ­biodegradable ash.

  • Published On Feb 19, 2024 at 08:35 AM IST

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