How to Glue Together a Lighter Spacecraft

Rocket-driven spacecraft normally use strong, heavy-metal mountings to hold their fuel tanks in place within the fuselage. But there may be a better way. Burt Rutan, the aerospace pioneer whose firm Scaled Composites is designing civilian suborbital spacecraft for Virgin Galactic, is using an alternative technique to secure the fuel tanks in order to keep the weight of the space plane down. Rutan says the use of heavy mountings can be avoided completely by careful design of the tank and fuselage. His idea, described in a US patent granted last month, is to glue the fuel tanks to the inside of the craft

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