World’s First Wooden Satellite Built by Japanese Researchers Set for SpaceX Launch

TOKYO – Japanese researchers have constructed the world’s first wooden satellite, a pioneering project set to launch on a SpaceX rocket in September. The tiny cuboid satellite, developed by scientists at Kyoto University in collaboration with logging company Sumitomo Forestry, measures just 10cm on each side.

Named LignoSat, the satellite is made from magnolia wood, chosen for its durability and sustainability. The developers anticipate that the wooden material will burn up completely upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, potentially mitigating the environmental impact associated with traditional metal satellites, which can generate harmful metal particles.

Dr. Takao Doi, an astronaut and special professor at Kyoto University, emphasized the environmental benefits of this innovation. “Satellites that are not made of metal should become mainstream,” he said during a press conference on May 28.

The satellite will be handed over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) next week. It is scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center aboard a SpaceX rocket and will be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS). Once in orbit, LignoSat will be released from the Japanese ISS experiment module to undergo tests on its strength and durability.

Researchers will monitor data transmitted from the satellite to assess its performance under the extreme conditions of space, including temperature fluctuations and structural strain, according to a spokeswoman from Sumitomo Forestry.

In a related event on May 28, another rocket, carrying the EarthCARE satellite – a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and JAXA – was launched from California. This satellite aims to investigate the role of clouds in climate change and will orbit nearly 400 kilometers above Earth for three years.

The launch of LignoSat marks a significant milestone in satellite technology, offering a promising solution for reducing space debris and minimizing environmental impact.