First ever wooden satellite to head to space

LignoSat’s wooden satellite measures 10x10x10cm (LignoSat)
LignoSat’s wooden satellite measures 10x10x10cm (LignoSat)

Scientists in Japan are hoping to launch the first ever wooden satellite into space after securing a spot on a SpaceX rocket launching later this year.

A team from Kyoto University and the logging company Sumitomo Forestry announced this week that they had completed the construction of the 10-centimetre cube LignoSat probe.

Made from magnolia wood, the LignoSat is durable enough to withstand the hostile space environment, according to ground tests carried out by the researchers.

The assembly of the satellite did not require any glue or screws, relying instead on a traditional Japanese technique. It is hoped that this method, as well as the sustainable material it is made from, will help reduce space clutter and promote the use of sustainable materials in space.

If successful, the researchers claim it could pave the way for space stations and even habitats on other planets to be made out of wood.

“Expanding the potential of wood as a sustainable resource is significant,” said Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University.

“We aim to build human habitats using wood in space, such as on the Moon and Mars, in the future.”

The researchers plan to collect data on how the wood behaves in space, including its internal temperature, geomagnetism and the amount it expands and contracts in low gravity environments.

The launch is scheduled for September from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with a second satellite made from wood, called LignoSat-2, already under development.

Another wooden satellite designed by WISA Woodsat was originally set to launch in 2021, but the project was delayed.

The startup told The Independent at the time that its mission was to “create a future beyond fossil fuels” by proving that it is possible to use renewable wood-based materials in demanding applications.

An update from 2022 said the project was in “waiting mode” after the delayed launch, though further updates have been given.