Space technology goes against the grain

British Engineers propose sending a manned wooden spaceship to the moon by 2020.

The engineers, all former employees of the aerospace division of Chum Group Oy, believe a composite fuselage made from 40 per cent redwood fibres will provide the spacecraft with three desirable qualities required for travel beyond Earth’s orbit.

‘It sounds crazy but this has been proven our lab tests,’ said Robert Wood, chairman of Suffolk-based Composite Space Exploration. ’One, it’s light so will use less fuel. Two, its strong, and it’ll bloody well need to be to get into space. Three, wood is renewable so that ticks all the ‘sustainability’ boxes.’

Wood explained to The Engineer that fibres from the redwood tree can be extracted in an environmentally-friendly way and then recombined with what he described as ‘proprietary materials’ to make a composite fuselage that tolerates exceptionally high temperatures and pressure.

The company’s laminating process, which is subject to a patent application, is also key to the mission, as it will help form an ablative skin for re-entry.

He added that the development of a prototype is ‘at an advanced stage’ and that a series of manned test flights in low Earth orbit are scheduled for 2016 from a site in Kazakhstan.

‘We’ll not risk a human pilot at this stage,’ said Wood. ‘There’s a pet shop on the same industrial estate as ours so we’ll likely buy a cat or a dog and then have spacesuits made for them. If they die? Not the ideal outcome, clearly, but we’ll have gained some telemetry. If they live? Then that’s the best publicity we could hope for: the mission is a success and we can launch a range of merchandise – I’m thinking soft toys – on the back of it. It’s a ‘win win’ and a real fillip for East Anglia!’