Japan is working on a proposal to launch the world’s first satellite made primarily of wood in 2023, as part of a larger effort to use wood’s environmental benefits and low cost in space exploration. According to a team led by Kyoto University and the Sumitomo Forestry Co., a satellite with a wood shell will burn up when it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere once its mission is completed, posing less of a threat to the environment.
Furthermore, it will be less expensive to manufacture than traditional satellites made of aluminum, which is currently the most common material. Because electromagnetic waves may pass through wood, an antenna can be housed inside the satellite. The satellite will be shaped like a cube having 10-centimeter sides. It will be encased in wood and solar cells on the exterior and will house an electronic substrate on the inside.
Employing extravehicular experimental gear aboard the International Space Station, a state-run university and a Tokyo-centered wood products company plan to evaluate the durability of wood in space, maybe as early as February.
The crew, led by astronaut Takao Doi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, intends to attach to the equipment hardwood sheets of variable hardness sourced from a variety of tree species. The sheets will be left in space for around nine months to see how they deteriorate.
If the proposal works, Doi, who is a program-specific professor at the Kyoto University, believes it will pave the door for “even children who are interested in space to create a satellite.” When Doi boarded space shuttle Columbia in 1997, he became the first Japanese astronaut to participate in extravehicular activities.
For the first time in 13 years, Japan initiated a recruiting effort for astronauts earlier this month, with the goal of sending a trip to the Moon in the later part of the 2020s. “We are searching for persons who can contribute to the advancement of aerospace research and advancement from a variety of sectors, including but not limited to aerospace industry experience,” according to a JAXA statement.
Former Minister in charge of Education and Science, Koichi Hagiuda stated in October that the goal is to put a Japanese citizen on the Moon for the very first time. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has seven astronauts, three of whom have already flown to the farthest reaches of space.
The astronauts chosen could be members of the US-led lunar exploration mission. “From now on, we’ll request applications every five years to keep a cadre of astronauts [in preparation],” Koichi had added. So far, at least 963 individuals have applied for the job. For the very first time since NASA’s Apollo 17 mission in 1972, the US is seeking to send people to the Moon by 2024 as part of its Artemis program.