Japan hopes wooden satellites solve space debris problem

Japanese researchers are working on satellite technology that would use wooden components to remove excess space waste, allowing objects to burn when they return to Earth’s atmosphere, according to a new report.

Sumitomo Forestry, a 400-year-old Japanese woodworking company, is partnering with Kyoto University to develop the technology, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

NASA estimated over a decade ago that 95% of man-made objects in orbit were space debris. They come from obsolete satellites, discarded rocket stages and other discarded mission materials.

Most of them are relatively small, according to the European Space Agency. Of 128 million pieces of debris in orbit, only about 34,000 objects measure more than 10 cm. But when bigger objects collide, they produce a lot, a lot smaller. And they can travel over 20,000 km / h, which makes even tiny particles dangerous.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, which maintains a satellite database, there are also around 2,800 satellites in orbit. Governments and space companies plan to launch thousands more in the future.

Experts fear that too much garbage in orbit will complicate future launches, possibly narrowing the window of flight paths. Larger objects that fall out of their orbit are also dangerous to life on the ground

Space debris threatens satellites and could be potentially fatal to astronauts. Some launches from countries less concerned with security protocols can return huge chunks of material to Earth.

In May, a Chinese rocket core rained to pieces over West Africa. If it had come back to school a few minutes earlier, it could have hit New York.

Wooden satellites would shatter completely, rather than returning to the surface or leaving tiny metal particles that could pierce spacesuits, solar panels or shuttles in the future.

“We are very concerned that all satellites that enter Earth’s atmosphere are burning and creating tiny particles of alumina that will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” the professor told the BBC. Kyoto University and Japanese astronaut Takao Doi. “Ultimately, this will affect the Earth’s environment.”

In October, two pieces of junk nearly collided 615 miles above Earth. One was an inoperable Russian satellite launched in 1989 and the other a Chinese rocket stage from 2009.

The objects passed within 30 feet of each other in a near miss, but an accident could have shattered them into thousands of pieces and then posed a risk of collision with other objects.