The company's main goal is to raise awareness about the possibility of using reusable materials for space exploration. According to Arctic Astronautics founder Jari Makinen, the main inspiration for the design of the wooden satellite came from his childhood hobby: making model airplanes.
Called the WISA Woodsat, the wooden satellite is a so-called "cubesat" or nanosatellite, meaning it's quite tiny. It's a 10x10x10 cube whose surface panels will be made of plywood, though it won't be entirely wooden, as Phys.org reports. The only non-wood components are the aluminum rails that it needs to get deployed, as well as a "selfie stick," which holds a host of the scientific gizmos it will have on board.
The ESA will help with the wooden satellite project by facilitating pre-flight tests and giving Arctic Astronautics a number of experimental sensors. To protect this sensitive equipment, the Woodsat isn't going into orbit "naked," so to speak: it will be covered in a protective coating that will help it withstand the harsh conditions of outer space, writes IFLScience.
Aside from its main environmentally-focused goal, the Woodsat also aims to perform small tech experiments, test the actual viability of plywood in orbit, and popularize space exploration tech to the public, as stated by Makinen.
Wooden Satellite from EU: Not Actually The First
Surprisingly, the aforementioned wooden satellite planned to launch this year is not the first concept of its kind. There have been numerous attempts to get major space agencies to consider the use of renewable materials such as wood, mainly due to the extreme danger of space garbage.
It was a group of Japanese researchers from Kyoto University, alongside the company Sumitomo Forestry, who came up with the idea last year of an environmentally friendly wooden satellite. The main gist for using wood was simple: if the satellite re-enters the atmosphere, it will burn up easily and leave almost nothing big behind, as reported by Digital Trends.
However, the Japanese wooden satellite isn't slated to launch until 2023, which puts the European one on the verge of being the first of its kind in orbit. Once it gets there, it will be monitored from the ground via an LED connected to a photoresistor, which will indicate the satellite's current condition.
Space Trash: A Growing Problem
Since the launch of the USSR's Sputnik in 1957, there have been roughly 8,900 satellites have been sent to space. And as of 2018, around 5,000 are still in orbit around the Earth. That's a really bad thing because bits of metal flying around in empty space with no resistance pose an extreme danger to any mission out there, especially manned ones.
Our problem with space trash has been so bad that countries are willing to spend millions to clean up all that junk aside from wooden satellite proposals. The United Kingdom, for instance, offered to fund seven cleaning programs worth $1.3 million.
With the planned launch of the wooden satellite, its creators look to make a positive first step.
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Written by RJ Pierce