They launch the first wooden satellite this year

They launch the first wooden satellite this year

Woodsat is the brainchild of Finnish science journalist Jari Makinen, who also runs a company called Arctic Astronauts. “I’ve always enjoyed making airplane models that include a lot of wooden parts,” says Makinen. – Working in the field of space education, this made me wonder: why don’t we fly with wooden materials in space? So I had the idea first of all to fly with a wooden satellite to the stratosphere aboard a weather balloon. This happened in 2017 with a wooden version of KitSat. Once we did well, we decided to upgrade it and actually go into orbit. Since then, Makinen has secured financial support for his space mission. He also has a partner for the upcoming test in the form of Rocket Lab. Meanwhile, ESA is working on a set of sensors that – along with on-board cameras – will monitor the satellite’s operation in space.

The first wooden satellite of its kind will enter orbit a little later this year in the form of a box made mostly of birch plywood, which will be filled with sensors from the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the potential of the material in space. The wooden satellite is almost cubic, measuring about 10 cm on each side, but the unique thing about this miniature device is that the surface panels will be made of plywood, reveals ESA. In fact, the only non-wooden parts visible from the outside are the angular aluminum plates that will help deploy it into space, along with a metal selfie holder. A camera will be mounted on a selfie stick to capture images on wooden surfaces. There will also be LED lighting, a sensor to monitor the pressure levels in the cavities of Woodsat and a pollution sensor. It will monitor the small deposits that form on the satellite, coming either from the on-board electronics or from the surface of the wood that needs to be processed in preparation for the mission.

“The main difference is that ordinary plywood is too wet to use in space, so we put our wood in a thermo-vacuum chamber to dry it,” explains Samsuli Naiman, Woodsat’s chief engineer. A thin layer of alumina is used to encapsulate the electronics. This should minimize unwanted wood fumes while protecting against the erosive effects of atomic oxygen. “We will test other varnishes and coatings on some areas of the wood,” explains Naiman.

Mission planners expect Woodsat to do well and survive ultraviolet radiation as it orbits the planet at an altitude of about 500 to 600 km. If all goes according to plan, Woodsat will fly into space before the end of the year.

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