The world’s first "wooden satellite" is preparing to launch before the end of this year. The satellite is designed and built in Finland and it will be launched to space during the fall of 2021 with a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from the Mahia Peninsula launch complex in New Zealand.

The mission of the satellite is to test the applicability of wooden materials, especially WISA-Birch plywood (a special plywood of Finalnd-based company) in spacecraft structures and expose it to extreme space conditions, such as heat, cold, vacuum and radiation, for an extended period of time.

Named "WISA Woodsat", the satellite is a 10x10x10 cm 'CubeSat' with surface panels made from plywood. Woodsat’s only non-wooden external parts are corner aluminium rails used for its deployment into space plus a metal selfie stick.

WISA Woodsat's selfi-stick camera

The wooden satellite uses a special type of coated plywood (called WISA) and has a pair of solar-powered onboard cameras, with one extended on a selfie stick to look back at the the wooden satellite and take pictures to see how it is behaving.

The wooden satellite will launch as part of a mission, designed by Arctic Astronautics, a Finnish company manufacturing cubesat kits for students.

The Special Wood

WISA plywood (Image - facebook.com/wisaplywood/)


Notably, as ordinary plywood is too humid for space uses, Arctic Astronautics is using a special plywood by placing the wood in a thermal vacuum chamber to dry it out and perform atomic layer deposition, adding a very thin aluminium oxide layer – typically used to encapsulate electronics. This, as per the company, minimize any unwanted vapours from the wood, known as ‘outgassing’ in the space field, while also protecting against the erosive effects of atomic oxygen.

According to Samuli Nymanm, co-founder of Arctic Astronautics and Woodsat chief engineer, Aluminum oxide, a chemical compound used as an electrical insulator, will help to prevent the wood from releasing any gas in the space environment. Also called as 'Alumina', Aluminum oxide is hard and wear-resistant, resists attacks by both acid and alkali substances, has high strength and stiffness. This will help the nanosatellite made with wood survive in outer space.

WISA Woodsat Stratospheric flight (12 June 2021)

WISA Woodsat got the first taste of space conditions on a stratospheric test flight on 12 June 2021 from the Heureka Science Center. The purpose of the flight was to use a functional model of the satellite to test the satellite's camera and communication equipment. The successful test flight lasted for 2:54 hours and reached an altitude of 31.2 km.



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