Man has been mastering orbital space flight for just over 60 years, and some 5,500 objects have already been sent into space. So many in fact that the Earth's orbit has become a veritable dumping ground, where ‘dead’ satellites cross paths and collide with each other, only to finally fall towards our planet and disintegrate in the atmosphere, releasing harmful substances along the way. In Japan, the Sumitomo Forestry company is working with Kyoto University to develop a solution to this problem: wooden satellites which, having completed their mission, would burn up without polluting the sky, reports the BBC.
Space litter, a danger
The European Space Agency (ESA) responded to the space debris puzzle at the beginning of December by signing a contract with ClearSpace for the world's first mission to ‘remove’ space debris. But given the amount in space, it would be extremely time-consuming and costly to ‘remove’ them one by one in this way. While they will not rid the Earth's orbit of its thousands of pieces of rubbish, the wooden satellites, which the partners hope to launch for the first time in 2023, would prevent the situation from worsening in the future. ‘This will end up affecting the Earth's environment,’ warns Takao Doi, a Kyoto University professor and Japanese astronaut, relayed by the BBC.
A long development process
We are very concerned that all satellites that enter the Earth's atmosphere burn up and create tiny alumina particles that will float in the upper atmosphere for many years.
So said the astronaut who stayed on the ISS in 2008. The partners will soon start experimenting with different varieties of wood in extreme environments on Earth, without revealing which ones, since it's an ‘R&D secret,’ a spokesman for Sumitomo Forestry is quoted as saying. Takao Doi added:
The next step will be to develop the technical model of the satellite, then we will manufacture the flight model.