A Japanese company called Sumitomo Forestry has teamed up with researchers from Kyoto University to develop the world’s first wooden satellites by 2023. This comes after the number of satellites being put into orbit have substantially increased over the last few years, causing concern amongst researchers and scientists about how much space junk will eventually accumulate around the Earth.
The reason wood has chosen as the ideal material is because it would burn up upon returning to the Earth without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere. According to Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University and Japanese astronaut who spoke to the BBC, when conventional satellites re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere they burn up and create tiny alumina particles that float in the upper atmosphere for many years. These particles could potentially have a detrimental effect on the earth’s environment.
The process of developing wooden satellites will start by experimenting with a variety of different wood types in some of the earth’s most extreme environments. The next stage will see the partners develop an engineering model of the wooden satellite, before developing a flight model of the satellite.
This is super-cool! To combat satellites that even on re-entry leave bits of metal in the upper atmosphere, Sumitomo Forestry and Kyoto University are working on designs for wooden satellites to keep the atmosphere cleaner. https://t.co/oo4mvEeDOW pic.twitter.com/F070ytTajC
— Yuri’s Night (@YurisNight) December 29, 2020
The exact type of wood Sumitomo Forestry will be using is being kept as a close secret, but the company did say the wood it will use will be highly resistant to temperature changes and sunlight.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), there are nearly 6,000 satellites circling our planet, with 60% of them regraded as defunct (space junk) and only 40% are operational. Even more concerning, WEF believes that by 2028, there could be as many as15,000 satellites in orbit.
Picture: Sumitomo Forestry