World’s first wooden satellite completes successful stratospheric flight

WISA Woodsat’s “selfie stick” camera took a picture just when the carrier balloon exploded as planned at the altitude of 31.2 km. In addition to the balloon fragments, the picture shows parts of the flight train and the space view from the stratosphere.

WISA Woodsat wooden satellite completed a successful stratospheric flight on Saturday 12 June 2021, when a test model of the satellite was sent on a flight from Heureka Science Center at Vantaa, Finland. The main purpose of the test flight was to trial the systems of the satellite and especially assess the crucial boom camera functions.

The balloon carrying the test model took off at 13:25 EEST and the flight lasted 2 hours and 54 minutes. The satellite reached its maximum altitude in the upper atmosphere 31.2 km over the city of Mäntsälä. The balloon exploded as planned, and the set-up began its descent under a parachute and landed safely into a forest a few kilometers southwest of the city of Lahti.

“All the systems performed as planned during the test flight. The satellite landed eventually in a forest area at Herrala, close to lake Hahmajärvi. The recovery team was on site soon after the landing, but the recovery took a bit more time than expected as the flight equipment had landed on the top of high spruce tree,” said WISA Woodsat mission manager Jari Mäkinen.

Since the test model worked as planned during the flight, the preparations for actual space flight will continue according to schedule. The flight model of WISA Woodsat satellite and its spare will be completed by the end of June. The spare model will be used for extensive tests that will be carried out at ESTEC, the technical center of The European Space Agency, in Noordwijk, Netherlands. The satellite will be put in a space simulator and subjected to the vibrations of the rocket ride in a specially made shaker.

WISA Woodsat is the world’s first satellite using wood in its primary structure. It is made of WISA-Birch plywood, which is coated against strong UV radiation using a new atomic layer deposition method. The comparison panels are coated with industrial UV lacquer. WISA Woodsat will be launched to space from New Zealand using Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket. The mission is exploring the behaviour of plywood in space for a period of two years. The countdown to WISA Woodsat’s launch can be followed on the mission website and in social media channels @wisawoodsat and #wisawoodsat.