The Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry has announced a joint development project with the University of Kyoto to test the idea of using wood as a component in satellite construction. As part of the announcement, Sumitomo Forestry officials told reporters that work on the project would begin with experiments designed to test different types of wood in extreme environments.
Some of the key components in most satellites include aluminum, Kevlar and aluminum alloys, which can withstand both extreme temperature and constant bombardment by radiation – all in a vacuum. Unfortunately, these properties also allow satellites to remain in orbit long after their usefulness has ended, leading to continuous additions to the space debris orbiting the planet. According to the World Economic Forum, there are currently about 6,000 satellites orbiting the earth, but only 60% of them are still in use. Some in the field have predicted that nearly 1,000 satellites will be launched into space annually in the coming decade. Given their longevity, this indicates that there may be thousands more satellites orbiting the planet in the coming years. This space debris poses a significant threat to other satellites (they all travel thousands of kilometers per hour) and also to manned space missions. Most in the space community agree that space debris is becoming a serious problem. And there is more bad news: the aluminum used in satellites has been found to break apart when a satellite returns to Earth, creating hundreds or thousands of tiny alumina particles that float in the upper atmosphere for years, possibly a environmental problem. . For all these reasons, the researchers want to replace these materials with wood with this new project.
The biggest advantage of wood-based satellites is that they would burn up completely if they returned to Earth. But another major advantage of using wood to create the outer shell of a satellite is that electromagnetic waves will move through it, meaning that antennas can be placed inside satellite structures, making it easier to design and deploy. . The researchers plan to search for suitable wood candidates and then perform experiments to see that they can be treated to withstand the space conditions. They predict that by 2023 they will have a product ready to test.
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