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At the max altitude of 31.2 km
A test model of the WISA Woodsat made a successful stratospheric test flight on Saturday 12 June 2021 from the Heureka Science Center in Vantaa, Finland. The main goal of this short flight was to use the systems and camera equipment of the satellite in space-like conditions.

The flight took off at 13:25 EEST and lasted for 2 hours and 54 minutes. The satellite reached its maximum altitude 31.2 km over the city of Mäntsälä, where the balloon carrying the set-up exploded as planned.

After that the satellite model and a styrofoam float (for possible landing to a lake or river) started its descent under a parachute and it landed safely into a forest. 

Launch taking place at Heureka

The purpose of this stratospheric flight was to test the systems of the satellite and especially take photos with the camera on the tip of the deployable camera boom. The "selfie stick" was open from the beginning of the flight, and the satellite took photos automatically every 30 seconds plus the extra images that were commanded from the ground station.

After the release of the flight train – with an audience of about 100 persons – the team was able to communicate with the satellite for about 20 minutes until it was out of sight.

Then the recovery team left the site and started the chase: they drove under the balloon, kept a live connection with the satellite and was able to reach the satellite's landing area at Herrala, close to Hahmajärvi lake almost immediately after it touched down.

Images taken by the "selfie stick" camera reveal nicely how the balloon expanded before it exploded.

Images taken by the "selfie stick" camera reveal nicely how the balloon expanded before it exploded.

Or in fact it didn't touch down: it fell on a large spruce tree. Reaching the satellite took some time, but finally it was lowered from the natural habitat of a wooden satellite and transported back to Heureka, where it was examined and the data recorded by the satellite was backed up.

"Everything went just right", said Samuli Nyman, WISA Woodsat's head engineer and master of everything related. "The only problem was the battery of our Souter running the ground station. It ran almost out of power."

"From the telemetry data we see nicely how the satellite was behaving and now we can see if any changes to our systems are needed. It seems we don't have any major issues."

As expected, the space-like conditions of the stratosphere didn't cause any damages to the plywood surface or the structures of the test model.

Flight path of the balloon from the satellite telemetry data

Flight path of the balloon from the satellite telemetry data.

Z acceleration

Acceleration encountered by the satellite. The graph clearly shows the launch, flying through the jet streams at around 10 km, the balloon burst, violent tumbling, swinging under a parachute and waiting while hanging on a tree.

Balloon exploded

Nice timing! A selfie stick camera took this photo a fraction of second after the balloon exploded.

Next stop: ESTEC

The actual satellite will be launched with Rocket Lab's Electron rocket to an orbit of over 500 km altitude. After this successful test flight, the construction of the flight model and its spare is going on as planned. They will be completed by the end of June.

The spare will be transported in early July to ESTEC, the technical center of The European Space Agency, in Noordwijk, Netherlands. There it will be tested in a space condition simulator and the satellite will go through a shaking test, which simulates the vibrations and shaking caused by the rocket ride.

After these tests, the team will go on with the final preparations of the satellite for the space flight.  

About the project

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 behavior of plywood in space for a period of two years. 

The mission brings together UPM Plywood, Arctic Astronautics and Huld. 

UPM Plywood offers high quality WISA® plywood and veneer products for construction, vehicle flooring, LNG shipbuilding, parquet manufacturing and other industrial applications. In 2020 UPM Plywood sales was EUR 400 million and it had 2,100 employees. UPM has five plywood mills and one veneer mill in Finland as well as plywood mills in Russia and Estonia.

Arctic Astronautics is a start-up from Finland, which has created the Kitsat educational satellite and the related STEM teaching material package. Kitsat is a fully functional one-unit CubeSat, specifically made for educational use with earthly components. It can be also used for stratospheric flights or easily upgraded with space-qualified parts into a qualified satellite, as demonstrated with WISA Woodsat TM. Arctic Astronautics graduated from the European Space Agency's Business Incubation Center in Finland in 2020.

Huld is a European technology design house with experience from the space industry since 1989. It is now also reaching out to the New Space industry combining software and testing knowhow with tailor-made additive manufacturing mechanisms and out-of-the-box thinking. Huld provides the additively manufactured deployable camera boom and related structures for the mission. 

The countdown to WISA Woodsat’s launch can be followed on the mission website wisawoodsat.space and in social media channels with the handles @wisawoodsat and #wisawoodsat. 

For further information please contact: 
Jari Mäkinen, tel +358 40 550 9198 / jari (at) kitsat.fi 
Ari Voutilainen, tel +358 40 6719995 / ari.voutilainen (at) upm.com 

Pictures and videos for media are available at the UPM Material Hub.