The WISA Woodsat Plans to Put Plywood, and 3D-Printed Nanotube Circuitry, in Orbit

With a plywood chassis, "selfie stick," and 3D-printed carbon nanotube circuitry, this isn't your average satellite.

A CubeSat due to launch next year is going to enter orbit with a unique feature: A wooden chassis, into which 3D-printed circuits have been fitted to give it functionality.

A partnership between UPM Plywood, Arctic Astronautics, and Huld, the WISA Woodsat is designed to adhere to the CubeSat standard — meaning it's a compact, low-cost satellite based on a cube roughly four inches on a side and weighing around 2.2lbs. Inside the case is a suite of sensors, like any of its rivals — along with a couple of features which make it stand out, starting with the material from which it's made.

"UPM's mission as a company is to create a future beyond fossils. WISA Woodsat is made of plywood and it carries a profound message of replacing fossils with renewable wood-based materials also in very demanding applications," UPM Plywood Ari Voutilainen claimed when the project was unveiled back in April. "Houston, we have a solution."

The satellite itself uses a specially-coated version of UPM's WISA-Birch plywood, and encloses a payload package which includes two cameras — one of which is designed to extend on a scissor-action "selfie stick" to allow the team to monitor how the wood performs in space. The European Space Agency (ESA), meanwhile, is equipping the satellite with a selection of experimental sensors of its own.

"The wooden satellite with a selfie stick will surely bring goodwill and raise smiles, but essentially this is a serious science and technology endeavor," claims mission manager Jari Mäkinen. "In addition to testing plywood, the satellite will demonstrate accessible radio amateur satellite communication, host several secondary technology experiments, validate the Kitsat platform in orbit, and popularize space technology to the public."

As well as the cameras and sensors, the WISA Woodsat will include 3D-printed circuitry — the creation, EE Times' coverage explains, of Polish specialist Zortrax and printed using a process which distributes graphene nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes through the material to allow it to conduct electricity.

The project's originally-planned launch, however, has been pushed back due to issues with radio frequency licensing — issues which have, sadly, removed a planned LoRa radio from its payload. "To our great disappointment, we can't serve the radio amateur community with the LoRa-repeater mission as we had hoped and planned," chief engineer Samuli Nyman explains. "We will continue to share the pictures and data online, but the technical aspect has been diminished due to this decision."

More information on the satellite, which is now scheduled to launch with a revised radio package in early 2022, is available on the official website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
Latest articles
Sponsored articles
Related articles
Latest articles
Read more
Related articles