Photo: Sumitomo Forestry

Japan Hopes to Launch the First Wooden Satellite by 2023

Japan News Astronomy
by Eben Diskin Dec 29, 2020

We’re no stranger to pollution here on Earth, and humans are working hard to find ways to reduce waste. Now the same is true of pollution in space. Sumitomo Forestry, a Japanese company, is partnering with Kyoto University to create the world’s first satellites made out of wood. It’s an attempt to solve the problem of “space junk,” which has become a serious issue with the many satellites sent to space.

According to the European Space Agency, there are currently over 900,000 pieces of debris larger than one centimeter (0.4 inches) floating into space.

Wooden satellites, unlike current satellites that create debris and release harmful substances when they make their way back to Earth, would be able to burn up entirely into the atmosphere.

Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University, told the BBC, “We are very concerned with the fact that 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. Eventually it will affect the environment of the Earth. The next stage will be developing the engineering model of the satellite, then we will manufacture the flight model.”

The partnership is currently researching tree growth and the use of wood materials in space, and it hopes to launch the first wooden satellite by 2023.

In 2019, ESA announced that a self-destructing robot Designed by Swiss startup ClearSpace will be sent into orbit on the world’s first space cleanup mission in 2025.

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