Space debris is turning out to become one of the serious problems with thousands of rocket launches since the space race started in the ’50s and ’60s. In order to combat this issue, Japanese scientists are planning to create a wooden satellite.
Japan’s Sumitomo Forestry, in collaboration with Kyoto University, have started working on a wooden satellite that will be ready by 2023, according to a BBC report. Sumitomo Forestry is a part of the 400-year-old Sumitomo Group and they are working on developing wooden materials that are highly resistant to temperature changes and sunlight. However, the company will not be divulging any details on the making of this combustible material calling it an "R&D secret", reported BBC.
Scientists working on this project will first experiment with different types of wood in extreme environments on Earth. The project aims to create wooden satellites that would burn up when they enter Earth’s atmosphere without releasing harmful substances or showering debris on the ground, as is the case with the current satellites.
Speaking to BBC, Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University and Japanese astronaut, said that they are very concerned with the fact that all the satellites which return to the Earth's atmosphere burn and create miniscule alumina particles floating in the upper atmosphere for many years. He further said that this process will eventually affect the environment of the earth. After figuring out the perfect kind of wood that would survive the extreme temperatures, the scientists would then develop the engineering model of the satellite. After that, the team will manufacture the flight model of the satellite.
Space junk has increasingly become a menace for scientists. According to the World Economic Forum, there are over 20,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 centimetres tracked in Earth’s orbit and there are many more that are untracked. With the rise in space activity, chances of space collision has increased many folds.
To clean up space junk, the European Space Agency has also signed a €86 million contract with a team led by Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA in November this year. As a part of their project, ClearSpace will launch a 500-kilogram spacecraft equipped with four robotic tentacles in 2025 and capture an ESA-owned craft known as VESPA (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) which is a 112-kilogram object. VESPA is a desolated spacecraft that failed to work and has now become a part of massive space junk orbiting our planet.
According to ClearSpace Today, in the last ten years, the number of satellites launched per year increased ten times and there are almost 600 satellites launched every year. This has created a mess of space debris in the Earth’s orbit which can hamper the working of many new and old satellites and space stations.