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Japan’s Wooden Satellite Gears Up for Space

Exciting news! It seems that space wood is gaining traction as Japanese researchers gear up to launch the world’s first wooden satellite. This groundbreaking endeavor follows a successful experiment conducted on the International Space Station (ISS), demonstrating the surprising durability of wood in outer space.

Collaborating with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), a dedicated team from Kyoto University conducted a compelling study by exposing three different types of wood to the challenging conditions outside the ISS. Astonishingly, after enduring the harsh cosmic rays and solar particles for a remarkable period of 10 months, the researchers observed that the wood remained unaffected. This noteworthy experiment commenced in March 2022 within Japan’s Kibo module aboard the ISS.

Building upon the remarkable results, the research team, in partnership with Sumitomo Forestry, a Japanese logging company, now aims to send a wooden satellite into orbit next year. Aptly named LignoStella, this pioneering satellite will incorporate wood in specific components traditionally constructed using aluminum, demonstrating the potential of this innovative material in space exploration.

Magnolia wood has emerged as the most resilient option among the three types of wood examined during the ISS experiment, leading the team to select it as the primary material for the construction of the experimental satellite.

When envisioning the construction of spacecraft in orbit, the idea of utilizing wood may seem unconventional. However, the recent experiment defied expectations as the wood displayed remarkable durability, remaining free from cracks, peeling, warping, or any surface damage throughout its nearly year-long stint in low Earth orbit.

Wood also presents certain advantages. Unlike metal satellites that could potentially break into space debris or result in burning aluminum, wood would completely burn up during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, minimizing environmental impact.

Furthermore, wood does not impede electromagnetic waves, allowing the satellite to house its antennas within its wooden structure instead of externally. So, rather than perceiving it as a fictional character like Futurama’s Bender attempting a downgrade with a wooden rebuild, this Japanese spacecraft embodies an upgrade by leveraging its wooden body.

While wood may traditionally be viewed as a relatively delicate material, its potential should not be underestimated.

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