A team of Japanese scientists hopes to launch a wooden spacecraft which is made from magnolia trees into orbit by 2024.
Magnolia tree proved to be the most adaptable of the three wood samples tested in a recent experiment on the International Space Station. The samples, which spent ten months in the hostile environment of space, were brought back to Earth in January.
Analyses revealed that the magnolia did not deteriorate or sustain any harm, such as cracking, peeling, or warping. The mass of the wood samples remained unchanged both before and after they were exposed to space.
Although wood may not seem like the ideal material for a satellite headed for orbit, it does offer certain special advantages.
Compared to the typical metal alloys used in building satellites, it is far cheaper and easier to produce. Additionally, wood is safer to decommission a satellite since it is more ecologically friendly, lightweight, flexible, and would undoubtedly burn up entirely upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Existing satellites that aren’t anticipated to totally burn up in the atmosphere are returned to Earth over distant ocean regions.
However, a wood satellite would still have interior parts made of conventional materials that might not burn up as quickly, so all concerns would not be completely eliminated.
The LignoStella Space Wood Project, a collaboration between Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry, aims to someday launch a wooden satellite into space. Since wood can resist a broad variety of temperatures and is durable in close to vacuum conditions, simulated experiments performed on Earth showed that wood would be advantageous in space.
The group’s wooden satellite will reportedly be launched by NASA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2024, as reported by Phys.org. Also an entry in the Nanosats Database, the satellite will engage in amateur radio operations and aid in teaching students about the features of the satellite.