science

Japanese researchers are working to create wooden satellites

Illustration of an article titled Japanese Researchers Build Wooden Satellites Because We Have a Space Waste Problem

picture: Sumitomo Forest

A group of satellites are floating around the Earth. Great for GPS, monitoring weather patterns, and the internet – not great for space trash. This is why Sumitomo Forestry and Kyoto University collaborate to create the world’s first wooden satellite by 2023.

You might think that metallic satellites burn out on re-entry, but as it turns out, it’s not that simple. “We are very concerned about the fact that all the satellites that enter the Earth’s atmosphere again burn up and create small alumina particles that will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” said Takao Doi, an astronaut and professor at Kyoto University. BBC When talking about the project. “Ultimately it will affect the Earth’s environment.”

Wood, however, Will be They burn completely on return without leaving harmful substances in the atmosphere – or possibly dangerous debris. to me Nikki AsiaAnother reason researchers are experimenting with wood is that it does not block electromagnetic waves or the Earth’s magnetic field. This means wooden satellites can have simpler designs, where components such as antennas can be placed inside the satellite itself.

As for wood species, Sumitomo Forestry keeps its silence. The company only told the BBC that this was a “research and development” secret, but that it would be resistant to changes in temperature, sunlight and extreme weather conditions. Sumitomo Forestry and Kyoto University also said they will also study the feasibility of building wooden structures in space through March 2024.

Currently, Sumitomo Forestry and Kyoto University aim to create a “proof of concept” and grow the research tree and how woody materials behave in space. The next step, according to Doi, is to create an engineering model for the satellite, followed by a flight model. But even if wooden satellites did not become a thing, any wood developed could be used in the most extreme environments on Earth.

according to World Economic ForumThere are nearly 6,000 satellites in orbit currently, 60% of which are already off. Meanwhile, it is estimated that 990 satellites will be launched each year for the next decade. The World Economic Forum also notes that there is More than half a million pieces of space waste Larger than the marble that currently floats around the Earth and 20,000 pieces of debris Greater than a softball. These pieces of garbage are not static. They are actually moving at speeds up to 17,500 miles per hour, The speed needed to remain in orbit and not return to Earth itself. to me NASA, More space junk represents an increased collision risk of all types of spacecraft, including the International Space Station, shuttles, and any other type of ship that might carry humans. (In fact, NASA and Russian flight controllers regularly Practice avoidance maneuvers To protect the International Space Station from space garbage.) Debris doesn’t need to be particularly large to cause damage – even paint stains have been shown to damage the space shuttle windows.

Space congestion is getting worse, as is SpaceX Elon Musk and Amazon’s Kuiper Project The race to launch thousands of satellites Orbit to provide low-cost internet. Meanwhile, astronomers did, too Expressed concern That could be these satellite constellations Disrupts their ability To observe the universe. It’s unclear how much wood satellites will alleviate the problem, but hey, they should be better than sticking more scrap metal in there.

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Phil Schwartz

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