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Space: discover LignoSat, the first satellite made entirely of wood

© Kota Kawasaki/Yomiuri Shimbun via AP/Alamy

In May, researchers from Kyoto University and the forestry company Sumitomo Forestry presented the results of their research in the journal Nature. Their project: a satellite whose main structure is made of wood, called LignoSat. It was designed to be more environmentally friendly and much less polluting than traditional satellites, made of metal and other unsustainable materials. Aluminum alloy, titanium, plastics and polymers, carbon fibers, etc. This innovation could completely shape the technical design of the objects we send into space.

LignoSat, small and robust

LignoSat, a compact cube measuring just 10 centimeters on a side, is made of magnolia wood panels covered with an aluminum frame; it also integrates solar panels, printed circuits as well as different sensors. The wooden panels were designed using traditional, ancestral Japanese carpentry methods, without any glue or metal fasteners. This avant-garde design allows LignoSat to withstand the extreme conditions of space, while providing undeniable ecological benefits.

Although wood may seem an unlikely choice for space due to its combustibility, this becomes a major asset in the fight against space debris. Indeed, when the stages of rockets and satellites are redirected towards the Earth's atmosphere to burn, they generally release particles of aluminum and other harmful metals. LignoSat, for its part, will burn completely without releasing any residue other than water vapor and carbon dioxide.

In addition to this advantage, wood has another major advantage: it does not block radio waves, which makes it ideal for take with it a telecommunications antenna. This is not the first time that wood has been used to design a satellite. In 1962, NASA's Ranger 3 lunar probe already had a hull made of balsa wood, the lightest wood in the world.

Wood, the future material of choice for space exploration ?

The LignoSat project, whose beginnings date back to 2020, isthe fruit of collaborations and speculation on the potential uses of wood in space. Koji Murata, member of the team and researcher at Kyoto University, recalls in this regard: “ During our first conversations, the Dr Doi proposed building wooden dwellings on the Moon “.

Researchers are looking even further& nbsp;: they are already imagining the construction of wooden shelters on the Moon and Mars, judiciously taking advantage of the natural properties of wood to create habitats durable. Nisa Salim, a materials scientist at Swinburne University in Melbourne, notes: “The natural radiation shielding properties of wood could be used effectively to design walls or outer shells of space habitats “.

Made up of cellulose bonded by lignin, wood forms a natural composite. Scott J. McCormack, a materials engineer at the University of California at Davis, specifies that “composites are ideal for plastics and materials. aerospace industry due to their high strength-to-weight ratio  ”. However, he tempers it and explains that wood, too, has disadvantages: “ The first concern that comes to mind is # 8217;mind is galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) and how it could degrade the mechanical properties of wood over time. GCR is not a major problem for us here on Earth, thanks to our atmosphere. Indeed, this radiation is much more intense and penetrating than the others, and therefore more difficult to absorb.

This does not prevent Koji Murata from remain optimistic and think that wood on Mars could remain stable for thousands of years. An observation that he makes based on in-depth studies of energetic solar particles and gamma rays. The LignoSat project, whatever its future, is already in itself a fairly important step forward for the aerospace sector. The latter, aware of ecological issues, is actively exploring solutions so that its environmental impact diminishes over the years: space depollution satellites, reusable launchers or search for alternative fuels for rockets.

  • A team of researchers has developed a satellite whose structure is made of wood: LignoSat.
  • This design gives it numerous advantages: resistance to radiation, combustion in a more ecological atmosphere and permeability to radio waves.
  • Wood is today considered as an exploitable material for certain space projects.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116