World’s first wooden satellite to be launched in 2021

Artic Astronautics, a Finnish company will send the world’s first wooden satellite into space by the end of 2021. Read how will a wooden satellite survive outer space.

Created On: Jun 15, 2021 17:05 ISTModified On: Jun 17, 2021 20:41 IST

Artic Astronautics, a Finnish company will send the world’s first wooden satellite into space by the end of 2021.

The wooden satellite named WISA Woodsat, designed and developed in Finland is a cube-shaped nanosatellite scheduled to be launched on a Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket in New Zealand in November 2021.

This wooden satellite will help the scientists monitor how does wood reacts in the cold, heat, radiation, and the vacuum of space. If it survives well, then wood could become a possible material for use in space.

WISA Woodsat, the world’s first wooden satellite

• The WISA Woodsat is a nanosatellite and the brainchild of Jari Makinen, co-founder of Arctic Astronautics.

• The cube-shaped satellite measures 4x4x4 inches (10x10x10 centimeters) and weighs approximately 2.2 lbs (1 kg).

What is the mission of WISA Woodsat?

• WISA Woodsat satellite will help the scientists monitor how does wood reacts in the cold, heat, radiation, and the vacuum of space. They will be able to study the durability and behavior of plywood in extreme conditions in space.

Where will the satellite be placed?

• During the pre-flight testing, it was concluded that the WISA Woodsat will be able to survive in an orbit as high as 500-600 km.

• The WISA Woodsat therefore will be launched into polar orbit as high as 370 miles (500-600 km) on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket in November 2021.

Features of WISA Woodsat

• The European Space Agency (ESA) has provided a suite of sensors to help monitor the performance of the satellite and will also assist with pre-flight testing.

• The material of plywood used in the WISA Woodsat is birch.

• The wood has been dried out and treated to level up the chances of it surviving in space. The plywood has been dried out in a vacuum chamber as the composition of regular plywood is too humid for space use. The panels have been treated with a very thin layer of aluminum oxide for better performance.

• The experts expect the wood to get dark while in the space. They will also be expecting to see if the plywood develops cracks during its trip to space.

• The satellite consists of aluminum rails that will help with releasing the satellite into space. The satellite will be installed with two cameras of which one will be attached to an extendable selfie stick that will face towards the body.

How will a wooden satellite survive outer space?

• The aluminum oxide will prevent the plywood from releasing any gas into space. Aluminum oxide is typically used as a chemical compound to encapsulate electronics. It will further protect the surface of plywood panels from exposure to corrosive atomic oxygen.

• Atomic oxygen was first discovered when the thermal blankets of NASA’s early Space Shuttle missions were damaged. Atomic oxygen is created when the UV radiation from the Sun splits the molecules of normal oxygen.

• Experts expect the plywood panels to darken due to atomic oxygen but they are confident of the WISA Woodsat satellite’s survival in space.

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