Innovative wooden satellite is “go for launch” at end of year
June 22, 2021 - A Finnish company is set to launch the world’s first wooden satellite, largely constructed from birch plywood, into space in November.
Arctic Astronautics is working to complete a wooden microsatellite which it intends to launch into space from New Zealand, aboard an Electron rocket in November.
The Finnish company, which makes small CubeSats primarily used by hobbyists and students, says the aim of the first mission is to test the behaviour and durability of the birch plywood panels in the extreme conditions of space.
The laminated structure of the wood is very similar to the type used in a lot of affordable modern furniture, except “space plywood” has been dried out in a vacuum chamber and coated in a thin layer of aluminium oxide. This protective coating helps prevent the wood from releasing gas into space when it is exposed to corrosive atomic oxygen, which can be found at the fringes of the Earth’s atmosphere, however it is expected to visibly darken the wood.
The 10cm cube WISA Woodsat is built for simple radio communication and is able to send messages and images around the world between ground relay stations. It is powered by nine small solar panels and equipped with an extendable selfie stick so it can film itself to see what happens to its wooden exterior.
In terms of sustainability, building satellites out of plywood instead of aluminium or steel is a much greener alternative. For every ton of steel made, 1.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted, with as much as 10.4 tonnes emitted for each ton of aluminium.
Plywood is also lot cheaper.