Japan to launch world's 1st wooden satellite in September

illustration of a square, silver and blue satellite in orbit, with earth in the background.
Artist's illustration of a wooden satellite in orbit around Earth. (Image credit: Kyoto University)

Japan plans to launch the world's first wooden satellite this September. 

The experimental satellite, called LignoSat, was developed by researchers at Kyoto University and the Japanese logging company Sumitomo Forestry. It is set to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in September, after which it will be deployed into orbit, according to the Japan Times.  

LignoSat is a tiny cube that measures 4 inches (10 centimeters) on a side and weighs just over 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms). It was crafted using a traditional Japanese technique that doesn't require screws or glue and is equipped with external solar panels.

Related: Japan has a wild idea to launch a satellite made of wood in 2024

The parts of the satellite that would normally be constructed from aluminum are instead crafted from magnolia wood sourced from a Sumitomo Forestry forest. Magnolia wood was "selected for its strength and workability after space exposure tests were conducted on cherry, birch and magnolia wood chips," the Japan Times reported.

About one month after arriving at the orbiting lab, the satellite will deploy from Japan's Kibo module. Researchers will study how it holds up in the harsh environment of space, collecting data on wood expansion, contraction and degradation, along with internal temperature and electronic equipment performance. 

If LignoSat does well, new doors could open for reducing the environmental impact of satellite reentries. Traditional satellites can deposit harmful metal particles in Earth's atmosphere when they fall back to our planet and burn up in our air.

"Expanding the potential of wood as a sustainable resource is significant," Takao Doi, an astronaut and professor from Kyoto University, told the Japan Times. "We aim to build human habitats using wood in space, such as on the moon and Mars, in the future."

Development for LignoSat began in April 2020, and ground tests have been completed to ensure the functionality and safety of launching the satellite to space in September. 

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13. 

  • Classical Motion
    I would love to watch a block of wood in space. No joke.
  • Classical Motion
    What would aliens think of a wooded spacecraft? A new wonder material?
  • allanrbrewer
    Admin said:
    Japan plans to launch the world's first wooden satellite this year, in an effort to reduce the environmental impacts of reentering spacecraft.

    Japan to launch world's 1st wooden satellite in September : Read more
    Not exactly the first...
  • Classical Motion
    That was great.