With the new satellite, the tree is being tested to see if it can withstand extreme heat, cold, vacuum and radiation in space. One wood and paint company, among others, is helping to fund this experiment, showing just how good their material is in space.
According to Satellite Product Manager Jari McKinnon, wood is an attractive material for satellites. It is a natural material and can be easily processed on a sturdy satellite. When it goes inactive, the satellite burns into the atmosphere leaving no waste, McKinnon said.
The new satellite, called ‘WISA WOODSAT’, is made of six sheets of plywood 10 to 10 cm long and forms a cube together. Plywood panels are made of birch wood and treated with a special top layer so that they can withstand strong ultraviolet radiation in the room.
WISA WOODSAT is equipped with transmitters and a selfie camera so developers can constantly monitor the condition of the tree. The satellite, which has nine solar panels, has enough power for this instrument.
To test WISA WOODSAT’s equipment, Finnish engineers flew a test model of the satellite in mid-June at an altitude of about 30 kilometers. A large balloon lifted a wooden cube and the satellite flew in the air for about 3 hours on a parachute, taking a selfie every 30 seconds. With no damage, the test flight ended in the jungle.
Funes is currently testing the new satellite at the European Space Agency’s Technology Center in Nordwijk. There, the satellite has not yet demonstrated its strength in a simulator that reflects the environment in space. Also, the Finns will expose their new satellite to vibrations similar to a rocket launch. The actual launch, at a distance of more than 500 kilometers, is scheduled to take place in New Zealand this fall.
Space consultant Eric Lan says this is a unique experiment in which it is good that large companies and organizations no longer have the exclusive right to build satellites. ‘Useful things also happen with this satellite because it has a transmitter for telecommunications. But I don’t think the tree is going to take over from today’s satellite materials. They have to process the firewood better, while the current products have always served well and they are not too expensive.
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