Japan is working to address the growing issue of space junk, with plans to launch satellites made of wood.
Space debris is a growing problem, with an estimated 14,000 pieces larger than 4 inches, 200,000 pieces between 0.4 and 4 inches, and possibly millions smaller than 0.4 inches. Unfortunately, the problem is only going to get worse as the commercialization of space continues.
As companies continue to deploy satellite constellations for internet access, engage in commercial flights and more, space junk will continue to add up. Adding to the concern is what happens when old, defunct satellites fall back to earth, potentially releasing harmful elements on reentry, or scattering dangerous debris across the Earth’s surface.
Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry, along with Kyoto University, is working on a solution involving wooden satellites, according to the BBC. The two organizations are experimenting with different types of wood to find one that can withstand the rigors of space. If successful, wooden satellites would eliminate much of the threat by completely burning up in the atmosphere.
“We are very concerned with the fact that all the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University and Japanese astronaut, told the BBC.
“Eventually it will affect the environment of the Earth.”
“The next stage will be developing the engineering model of the satellite, then we will manufacture the flight model,” Professor Doi added.
If Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry are successful, their work could revolutionize the space industry and potentially solve one of its biggest challenges.