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Wooden Satellites: A Solution to Space Junk? Japan’s Pioneering Quest

When considering the idea of launching a wooden satellite into space, one might instinctively question its durability compared to metal. However, an intriguing experiment conducted by researchers aboard the International Space Station has shed light on the surprising sturdiness of wood in the outer space environment.

In 2020, Japan unveiled plans to construct a satellite primarily composed of wood, driven by concerns over the growing issue of space debris and the continuous influx of satellites into orbit. With the principle of “what goes up must come down,” the improper disposal of satellites has resulted in hazardous metal fragments scattering through the skies upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

Introducing a wooden satellite could serve as a potential solution, as wood would naturally burn up during reentry, reducing the amount of debris that returns to Earth. This innovative approach holds the promise of mitigating the risks posed to animal and human life, minimizing the likelihood of injuries when these remnants inevitably descend to our planet. Although the likelihood of reaching orbital capacity is currently low, experts have issued warnings about the persisting issue of space debris, prompting the need for proactive measures.

In recent years, the International Space Station (ISS) has had to alter its course multiple times to avoid potential collisions with space debris. As the number of space stations and satellites continues to increase, this endeavor is becoming even riskier.

To tackle this challenge, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has partnered with researchers from Kyoto University to develop a wooden satellite. The team conducted experiments to test the durability of three different wood types in the harsh space environment outside the ISS. Surprisingly, the wood exhibited no adverse effects from cosmic rays or solar particles during its exposure.

Remarkably, even after spending 10 months in space, the wood remained unaffected. These findings have paved the way for the construction of a functional wooden satellite, which is reportedly nearing completion and ready for launch, as per Gizmodo. The success or failure of this satellite will serve as a crucial validation of wood as a viable material for future satellite development. Should this project prove successful, it may lead to a proliferation of wooden satellites being launched into space.

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