Wooden satellites eyed as answer to growing space junk problem


In Japan, Sumitomo Forestry and Kyoto University are designing a satellite made from wood that would completely incinerate upon re-entry in an effort to reduce space junk. If successful, it would be the world’s first functional wood-based satellite. 

 “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,” Kyoto University professor Takao Doi tells syfy.com. “Eventually it will affect the environment of the Earth.” Nearly half of the 6,000 satellites orbiting Earth are unused, and broadband demands globally will only increase the number of satellites being sent into space. 

Currently, the team is looking at what woods might be able to handle the temperature swings and radiation satellites are subjected to. While wood might seem too flimsy at first glance, science has had success chemically treating wood to make it more durable.

“The next stage will be developing the engineering model of the satellite, then we will manufacture the flight model,” says Doi, visited the International Space Station in 2008. The first model would likely be launched in 2023.