Japan to create first wooden satellites that burn up on re-entry so no space junk is created

Sumitomo Forestry, a Japan-based wood processing company, is working in tandem with Kyoto University to solve the problem.

Japan to create first wooden satellites that burn up on re-entry so no space junk is created
Image source: Getty Images

Japan is planning to make wooden satellites, the first of its kind, with the intention of not creating space debris when they re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. When satellites plunge back to earth, eventually they release harmful substances into the atmosphere. Japan is looking to launch a more environment-friendly satellite to reduce space trash, reported The Independent. Sumitomo Forestry, a Japan-based wood processing company, made the announcement that they were starting research on finding the right wood material for space. Sumitomo Forestry is carrying out the research along with Kyoto University to solve the problem of harmful space debris. They said the space debris of the satellite from over the years fall on the ground and prove harmful to the environment with time. They plan to test the material in extreme environments on earth to determine if it'll be harmful in any way. Sumitomo Forestry and Kyoto University said they were looking to have the satellite ready for use by 2023.

Image Source: Getty Images/ a ring of garbage around the planet earth


“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,” said Taka Doi, an astronaut, and professor at Kyoto University. NASA says space junk comprises of human-generated objects, such as pieces of spacecraft, tiny flecks of paint from a spacecraft, parts of rockets, satellites that are no longer working, or explosions of objects in orbit flying around in space at high speeds. Space junk is also called space pollution. The US space surveillance network has reported nearly 20,000 artificial objects in orbit above the Earth, including 2,218 operational satellites, as of October 2019. It has been long discussed how countries should take more responsibility for space junk. More countries and companies are planning to launch space satellites. Space X and Amazon are all lining up to launch thousands of satellites to achieve global satellite internet coverage.



There is also a problem of space junk colliding with each other. Last year, it was reported that two large pieces of space junk nearly collided with each other. Many experts said the event had the potential to become a ‘high-risk’ situation. National Geographic reported that the two objects of space junk were a defunct Russian navigation satellite launched in 1989 and parts from an old Chinese rocket, ChangZheng, from a 2009 launch. The pair nearly collided at an altitude of 1,000 km and their collision would have created a cloud of debris that would have jeopardized other satellites and spacecraft for decades. The combined mass of both the objects was more than 2.5 tonnes and had a relative velocity of 32,800mph. Any form of collision would have produced a shower of debris and would have been catastrophic. Luckily, there was no collision. The objects of space junk had come within 25m of each other but didn't collide, reported The BBC. There were no signs of debris over Antarctica.



According to the European Space Agency, its annual State of the Space Environment report said there was an increase in such events which was worrying. Collisions can also cause explosions due to left-over energy in fuel and batteries from old spacecraft and rockets. It is estimated that over the last two decades, 12 accidental fragmentations have occurred in space every year "and this trend is unfortunately increasing", said the agency.