Scientists from Kyoto University teamed up a forestry company in order to investigate how wood could be used in space. The aim is to prevent pollution in the upper atmosphere which occurs when conventional satellites burn up on re-entry.
Takao Doi, a former International Space Station astronaut, told the BBC his team are “very concerned” about the miniscule “alumina particles” that accumulate in Earth’s atmosphere when satellites return.
These particles can remain in the atmosphere for “many years,” he added. In contrast, the wooden satellites would allegedly burn up in a cleaner way.
The researchers are keeping the specific types of wood they are using a secret. Still, it is understood they are set to trial different types thanks to their partnership with Sumitomo Forestry.
Japanese researchers say satellites polliute the atmosphere when they burn up (Image: PaulFleet / Getty)
However, some analysts have hit out at the reports. John Timmer, a reporter for tech news site Ars Technica, has claimed the wooden housing “won’t help” eliminate the issue of space junk.
Mr Timmer claimed the satellite housing only makes up “a fraction” of the material used in the satellite overall, and that other vital components such as boosters constitute “a lot of the junk” in space.
Elsewhere other analysts suggest wooden satellites could have benefits aside from ‘green’ re-entry incineration.
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Some analysts suggest a wooden satellite exterior could have benefits for communication (Image: Jonathan Herbert I JH Images / Getty)
Nikkei Asia claims wood would not act as a barrier for electromagnetic waves.
This suggests wooden satellites wouldn’t need to make use of external antennas to communicate, “allowing for simpler structures”.
In any case, the issue of space pollution is not a new one.