Researchers are exploring the possibility of using wood as the main structural material for orbiting satellites that will burn in the earth’s atmosphere after decommissioning.
Most units are made of aluminum alloy and Kevlar to withstand extreme outdoor conditions. The other side of the coin of their strength and reliability is the durability of being in orbit in the form of space debris. Currently, about 6 thousand satellites revolve around the Earth, 40% of which are no longer used..
In addition to the fact that space debris moving at a speed of 28 thousand km / h represents A serious threat to new satellites and manned spacecraft, the debris of the skin decays over time into tiny particles of alumina, polluting the upper atmosphere. As the number of launches increases, this can lead to an environmental problem..
Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry is working with Kyoto University to tackle this problem by using wood to create satellite hulls. Such a shell will completely burn out in the atmosphere and will be able to transmit electromagnetic waves without problems, which will allow the antennas to be placed inside the structure and simplify design..
In the near future, the team will be experimenting with different types of wood, selecting those that, after special processing, will be able to withstand the extreme conditions of space. The first tests of finished samples should begin in 2023.
The space community has recognized the seriousness and last year ESA has already allocated €100.2 million for cleaning near-earth orbit.
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: NASA