Can you imagine a communication satellite made of wood?

At 9:22 a.m. yesterday, the Shenzhou 12 manned spacecraft was officially launched. The flight crew consisted of astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo. They will fly to my country's autonomous manned space station "Tiangong" on the Long March-2 F-Yao-12 carrier rocket, and will stay for three months to complete various missions.

Are you curious about what materials the manned spacecraft they are on and the "Tiangong" space station they are going to are made of?

In fact, most of the current manned spacecraft or artificial earth satellites are made of aluminum alloy and magnesium alloy as the structural materials, and titanium alloy and stainless steel are used for parts with higher strength requirements. In order to improve stiffness and reduce weight, new composite materials reinforced with high modulus graphite fibers have been adopted.

▲Photo from Tianzhou-2: The 5th Academy of Aerospace Science and Technology

So what happens if wood is used as the material for making satellites?

On June 12, WISA Woodsat successfully conducted a stratospheric test flight from the Helika Science Center in Vantaa, Finland. It continued to fly for 2 hours and 54 minutes, detonating the balloon fixed above it at an altitude of 31.2 kilometers and began to descend. Finally landed safely in the forest.

▲Picture from: Arctic Aerospace

WISA Woodsat is a microsatellite made of plywood, only 4 cubic inches in size. It is equipped with a sensor package provided by the European Space Agency and a selfie stick used to record the entire flight. The researchers applied a thin layer of alumina to prevent it from degrading in the highly reactive oxygen above the earth’s atmosphere.

▲Picture from: Arctic Aerospace

This microsatellite is a product of the Arctic space company Kitsats and is used for educational purposes for students and amateurs.

Don't underestimate this small wooden cube, it can carry out simple radio communication, sending information and images to all parts of the world between ground relay stations. During the WISA Woodsat flight, about 100 people were able to communicate with the satellite for 20 minutes.

▲Picture from: Arctic Aerospace

WISA Woodsat will be shipped to ESTEC, the European Space Agency Technology Center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in early July. There, it will be tested in a space condition simulator.

The Finnish aerospace company plans to use the Electron rocket of the private aerospace company Rocket Labs to send the "wood satellite" into space by the end of this year.

Why is Kitsats so obsessed with using "wood" to make satellites?

▲Picture from: Arctic Aerospace

The advantage of using plywood instead of aluminum or steel to manufacture satellites lies in the "environmental protection".

Although a space station like Tiangong will not use wood as a manufacturing material, after all, it not only has to withstand the pressure exerted by the oxygen in the space station, but it also faces the danger of being pierced by tiny debris in space.

However, a single-function communications satellite like WISA Woodsat does not require much structural strength, so as long as the orbital test progresses smoothly, "wood" may be a cheaper and more environmentally friendly choice.

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