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UPM partners with Arctic Astronautics and Huld to launch WISA Woodsat – the world’s first wooden satellite

In Finland, UPM Plywood, part of forest industry major UPM, Arctic Astronautics Oy, and product developer Huld Oy have announced a joint mission to launch the world's first-ever wooden satellite, "WISA Woodsat", into Earth’s orbit by the end of 2021.

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UPM Plywood, Arctic Astronautics Oy, and Huld Oy have announced a joint mission to launch the world’s first-ever wooden satellite, “WISA Woodsat”, into Earth’s orbit by the end of 2021 (image courtesy UPM).

As it happens, April 12, 2021, is the UN’s International Day of Human Space Flight and the plan is that WISA Woodsat will go where no wood has gone before. With a mission to gather data on the behavior and durability of plywood over an extended period in the harsh temperatures, vacuum, and radiation of space in order to assess the use of wood materials in space structures.

The Wooden satellite with a selfie stick will surely bring goodwill and raise smiles, but essentially this is a serious science and technology endeavor. 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, said WISA Woodsat mission manager Jari Mäkinen from Arctic Astronautics.

WISA Woodsat is a nanosatellite designed and built by Arctic Astronautics, and it is based on the Kitsat educational satellite. The satellite measures roughly 10 x 10 x 10 cm and weighs one kilogram (kg) – the popular CubeSat standard.

A suite of onboard sensors, including two cameras will be used to monitor the specially coated WISA-Birch plywood.

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. Houston, we have a solution, said Ari Voutilainen, Space Project Manager for UPM Plywood.

One of these cameras is situated on a deployable boom designed by Huld for exterior imaging.

The space materials laboratory of the European Space Agency will provide a novel sensor suite for the mission. And all of this will be powered by ten small solar cells.

Huld is extremely proud to be part of this mission as it combines Huld’s main competence areas, space and mechanical design. We foresee a lot of possibilities in the future by using the knowhow developed in this mission, said Matti Anttila, Space Business Development Director from Huld.

WISA Woodsat will be launched to polar orbit by Rocket Lab Ltd’s Electron launch vehicle. The launch will take place from the Mahia Peninsula launch complex in New Zealand. The satellite will orbit the Earth at an altitude of 500–550 kilometers, completing a full orbit every hour and a half.

We’re proud to provide access to orbit for this innovative mission and we’re excited to see teams like UPM, Arctic Astronautics, and Huld pushing boundaries, said Lars Hoffman, SVP of Global Launch Services at Rocket Lab.

The manufacturing of the satellite is ongoing and next up are the tests required for a ticket to ride the rocket.

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