Forget about aluminum and titanium. The world’s first plywood satellite is set to go on a serious space mission in November. The wee WISA Woodsat — a miniature, cube-shaped satellite —will be launched by Finland from a base in New Zealand after a successful preliminary journey to the stratosphere.
The “nanosatellite” measures a mere 4 by 4 by 4 inches and is made of birch plywood — specifically a brand called WISA, which is manufactured by UPM, a Finnish paper mill. The tiny, economical space vehicle made a 3-hour test flight 19 miles above the Earth in June — launched from a balloon. The Woodsat also took a picture of itself using a built-in selfie-stick.
“One of the most common questions we get is ‘why plywood?’ — and our answer is ‘why not’? Dried plywood is like a natural composite material having its own positive and negative properties – just like all other materials,” the company said in a technical guide.
“While raw wood is not suitable for the primary structures of the satellites, plywood is totally different. Plywood supports temperature changes well and is lightweight and strong,” the guide advised.
“The main idea behind WISA Woodsat is to test how plywood behaves not only in space, but also when building a satellite.”
A serious inaugural flight for the spacecraft is scheduled for November aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket, sent from the Mahia Peninsula launch complex in New Zealand.
“The mission of the satellite is to test the applicability of wooden materials, especially WISA-Birch plywood in spacecraft structures and expose it to extreme space conditions, such as heat, cold, vacuum and radiation, for an extended period of time,” the company said in a statement.
Follow the developments at https://www.wisaplywood.com/wisawoodsat/