New wooden satellite is part advertising, part student project

Artist's conception of the satellite in orbit.

Enlarge (credit: WISA WOODSAT)

Late last year, we were extremely skeptical of reports regarding a plan for wooden satellites that seemed confused about what could be gained from using the natural material. But a wooden satellite looks like it might get to orbit later this year, via a project we can fully endorse. It’s a bit of silly advertising by a plywood manufacturer that will ensure that a student project gets sent to space.

The project, based in Finland, is called the WISA WOODSAT, and it has taken a bit of an indirect route to orbit. The design is based on cubesat format called Kitsat, which is intended for student projects. If the goal is simply to expose students to what it takes to make a compact satellite (the design is a 10 cm/side cube), the satellite can be built using cheap, easy-to-obtain hardware. But it can also be made using space-rated materials and sent to orbit.

The WOODSAT started out as more of the former, with students around the country contributing different parts to a cubesat that was then taken aloft by a balloon. But now, with an opportunity to go to orbit, another version is getting an upgrade to survive the harsh environment.

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