WISA Woodsat hides a treat for geocachers

Story 7.8.2021 14:00 EEST

We have interesting news for the global Geocaching community. Geocachers can soon log the world’s first wooden satellite Travel Bug, WISA Woodsat. WISA Woodsat is a research satellite with a mission to do material research in space. More specifically, explore the use of WISA-Birch plywood in spacecraft structures.

Plywood is a natural composite material and for decades it has been used as a structural material in many demanding industrial applications such as aircraft structures and propellers, windmill blades, as well as truck, trailer, and bus floors. WISA-Birch plywood is also used in LNG tanker ship insulation elements where the material needs to handle -163C (-261F) freezing temperatures. Plywood is strong and easy to work with and therefore the most common use of plywood is in buildings where the panels are used for creating load-bearing floors, walls, and roofs.

Heat, cold, and moisture are normal elements on the Earth’s surface but in space, the material faces different challenges. WISA Woodsat has two specific research focus areas - “super drying” and outgassing caused by the vacuum in space and harsh unfiltered UV radiation.

The satellite carries a suite of sensors to measure changes in the wood material. But the primary way of observation is a camera, which is mounted on a unique selfie stick. The camera enables monitoring of the visual changes in the wood material. But, for the Geocaching community, the selfie camera has an alternative purpose.

WISA Woodsat travels around the Globe once every 1.5 hours, making it an ultimate Travel Bug (TB9GB8G). You can log WISA Woodsat by finding the tracking code from the pictures, which the satellite has taken with its selfie camera.

The satellite uses LoRa radio, which is possible for radio amateurs to communicate with the satellite directly. You can download your own images from the satellite. But, if you do not have your radio equipment at the ready, you can visit wisawoodsat.space and explore the image gallery.

WISA Woodsat is scheduled to launch from New Zealand with Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket before the end of 2021. Lots of unexpected events can happen in space so this schedule is subject to change. Add TB9GB8G to your Watch list to be notified with the very latest information.

The Geocaching game

Geocaching is a real-life adventure game where the players use a mobile app or a GPS device to find hidden items. The basic idea is that players set up small containers called geocaches all over the world and share the locations of these caches for other players. However, the location is not always the only key to finding a geocache as it might be hidden in plain sight. A geocache might look like a rock, street sign or an extra bolt on a bridge adding more challenge to the game.  Once found, the players verify their find by signing the log of the cache.

The Geocaching game includes items called Travel Bugs, which travel from cache to cache carried by the players according to the stated mission of the individual Travel Bug. As the Travel Bugs do not have logbooks, the players can log the Travel Bug as “seen” with a special code printed on the bug. In the case of WISA Woodsat’s Travel Bug, the secret code is visible on images taken by the satellite itself – if you know what you are looking for.

Read more about Geocaching and how to get started