Researchers examine wood applications for space satellites

4 January 2021

Researchers in Japan are reportedly looking at the possibility of satellites being made from wood in the future, according to Nikkei Asia.

The news, released by Nikkei Asia on December 24, coincidentally mirrors an unrelated April Fools’ Day news story created by TTJ on April 1, 2008 saying that NASA was testing satellites made from wood as they would do less potential damage on re-entry by completely burning up.

Japanese logging company Sumitomo Forestry and Kyoto University are working on a project to examine several potential benefits of using wood in space, including the fact wood does not block electromagnetic waves or the Earth’s magnetic field, as well as the fact a wooden satellite would completely burn up in the atmosphere on re-entry to lessen any potential debris.

The study will be ongoing for the next four years.

“Wood is being explored for new applications all the time,” said Stephen Powney, editor of the Timber Trades Journal (TTJ).

“When we did what was a spoof news story on Aprils Fools’ Day back in 2008 it was against a background of rapidly increasing developments in engineered timber. Of course, there were no NASA scientists working on an engineered oak satellite in our story. But we’re delighted it has in some way proved prophetic, with real research taking place now in Japan for using wood in space.

“Applications for using wood, whether in its natural state or engineered or modified in some way, continue to grow all the time.”

To see TTJ’s April Fools’ Day story on April 1, 2008 read here - NASA to use engineered oak in satellite safety experiment