Timber’s versatility is on display as it enters the space race!

“Kyoto University is developing a satellite made entirely from wood in an effort to reduce waste”

If you’re like us, you’re probably a little glum to be stuck in yet another lockdown. While we can’t change that, we can help you take your mind off things temporarily with an interesting New Year’s story that’s right up our street: a team of researchers at Kyoto University in Japan is developing a satellite made entirely from timber! For all of us who have been praising timber’s versatility over the years, this is undoubtedly proof that wood really can be used for anything you can imagine! The satellite, called the LignoSat, is set to launch in 2023.

While this might seem like a light-hearted story, there is a serious side to it. The thinking behind a wooden satellite is simple: it can go out into space, then burn up entirely on re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. That way, it won’t add to the huge amount of space waste floating in our planet’s orbit. This debris includes more than 34,000 large pieces of rubbish like discarded parts of rocket, and as many as 2,550 defunct satellites (and bear in mind that Earth has only produced 5,850 in total).

Once more, timber finds itself in a position to contribute to the environment, reducing waste and diminishing carbon-heavy industrial production. It’s also helping to keep people safe: all that space junk poses a very real threat to spacecraft and functioning satellites. Takao Doi, a former astronaut and the project’s leader, noted another concern: when debris re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, it releases small particles of aluminium oxide (also known as alumina) into the atmosphere. He told reporters:

“We are very concerned with the fact that all the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years. Eventually it will affect the environment of the Earth.”

Doi added that his team will have to engineer incredibly durable timber if they want to succeed. Eventually, he says, this will be used on Earth to create “ultra-strong, weather-resistant wooden buildings”. So, in a very direct way, the work going on in Kyoto University may one day contribute to timber’s wider de-carbonisation project (as well as our peace of mind) by creating a world full of buildings made from natural material.

While we can’t provide timber suitable to create space-faring satellites, we can supply pretty much everything else. If you have a project in mind and want to discuss which timber is right for it, please give Quercus a call on 0845 50 50 311.