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Finnish Company to Launch Wooden Satellite

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Steel is overrated anyway.

Satellites are typically made of materials that are highly resistant to things like high-pressure and heat; steel, plastic, and other-space age metals are the usual choices. Theoretically, though, if you can shoot it into space without it collapsing in on itself, it can be, by definition, a “satellite.” So… how about one made of wood?

Arctic Astronautics, a Finnish company founded by writer and broadcaster Jari Makinen, is planning on launching the world’s very first wooden satellite this year. The WISA Woodsat is created in the image of a “CubeSat” satellite, a small, cubicle satellite built up from basic boxes. The obvious difference is that, barring some sensors, stabilizing aluminum corner rails, and a selfie stick, the WoodSat is made up entirely of plywood panels.

“I’ve always enjoyed making model planes, involving a lot of wooden parts,” Makinen said about the project. “Having worked in the space education field, this got me wondering; why don’t we fly any wooden materials in space?”

“So I had the idea first of all to fly a wooden satellite up to the stratosphere, aboard a weather balloon. That happened in 2017, with a wooden version of KitSat. That having gone well, we decided to upgrade it and actually go into orbit. From there the project just snowballed: we found commercial backing, and secured a berth on an Electron launcher from Rocket Lab in New Zealand.”

Woodsat will be equipped with a pressure sensor to determine how well the cavities of the wood handle the vacuum of space, as well as a test project for 3D printing electrically conducive plastic. While it’s pretty unlikely that this satellite will ever return to Earth proper (because it would almost definitely burn up in the atmosphere), this could be a fascinating opportunity to test the resistance of organic matter in the big vacuum.