The issue of sustainability apparently does not stop at space travel. Because scientists from Japan are currently evaluating the possibility of building satellites out of wood.

Since mankind discovered space for itself, the amount of waste in orbit has been increasing continuously. In the meantime, however, the garbage in orbit around the earth is increasingly becoming a risk: it can lead to collisions with satellites and space stations, or celestial bodies can burn up in the atmosphere.

But even that poses a problem. When aluminum burns in the atmosphere, it can create new holes in the ozone layer. Researchers from Japan have now taken on this problem.

A team from Kyoto University teamed up with local start-up Sumitomo Forestry to validate the suitability of wood as a material for satellites. They also sent different types of wood to the international space station ISS.

Wooden satellites: Magnolia wood is the most resistant

After the researchers shot three different types of wood into space in March 2022, it was clear after around ten months which material was best suited. Because among the woods, magnolia wood in particular stood out as a resistant material. After almost a year, the wood had no cracks, deformations or other damage.

In the context of the sometimes extreme conditions in space, this seems quite astonishing. The researchers are therefore now hoping to manufacture satellites based on magnolia wood. If the wood burns in the atmosphere, long-term damage to our atmosphere is almost impossible.

First attempts already from 2024

The team wants to put a first wooden prototype into orbit as early as next year. If the experiment proves successful, a real alternative to classic satellites could develop in the long term. Although individual components may still be made of metal, the step seems to be a first in the direction of sustainable space travel.

Valuable resources that could be recycled are often lost when they enter orbit. If the components burn up, the sustainability nightmare is complete. So it remains to be seen what materials future satellites will be made of.

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