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The world’s first wooden satellite aims to prove that plywood can survive space



The WISA Woodsat team is working with ESA on tests and sensors for the world’s first wood satellite.

Arctic astronautics

Toothpicks. Tables. Boxes. Shave. Satellites? An ambitious project will send a small wooden satellite into orbit later this year to see if it can withstand the brutal conditions in space. It has already survived a test drive into the stratosphere.

WISA Woodsat is a 4-inch (1

0 centimeter) square satellite scheduled for launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket in New Zealand. Getting into orbit is only part of the adventure. Once there, the team monitors the small cube to see how its plywood structure stands up to cold, heat, radiation and the vacuum of the room.

Woodsat was conceived by Jari Makinen, co-founder of the CubeSat replica kit company Arctic Astronautics. The European Space Agency, or ESA, provides a range of sensors to track satellite performance and will also assist with pre-flight testing.

These birch plywood panels form the surface of WISA Woodsat.

Arctic astronautics

The only non-wood parts of the plywood satellite on the outside are aluminum rails needed to release the satellite into space and an expandable selfie stick that holds a camera pointed back at the body. A more typical CubeSat would be made with more metal components.

“The base material for plywood is birch, and we use pretty much the same as you would find in a hardware store or to make furniture,” Woodsat chief engineer and Arctic Astronatics co-founder Samuli Nyman said in an ESA statement last week. week.

The plywood used in the satellite has been dried out and treated to give it a better chance of standing up to the room conditions. Woodsat’s team expects the exterior to darken, but will also look at whether cracks occur while in orbit.

A Woodsat test model pulled a trip into the stratosphere on a weather balloon on June 12th. “The main objective of this short flight was to use satellite systems and camera equipment under space-like conditions,” Arctic Astronautics said in a statement. The flight lasted just under three hours. The plywood came out fine and the camera worked as expected.

A camera on the test model from Woodsat captured this perception of the weather balloon exploding as expected during a stratospheric test flight on June 12, 2021.

Arctic astronautics

If Woodsat does well, it could spur a new look at wood as a possible material for use in space. “Ultimately,” said Makinen, “Woodsat is simply a beautiful object in terms of traditional Nordic design and simplicity, it should be very interesting to see it in orbit.”

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