What materials are using to build nowadays spacecraft? What kind of joints of main structure is used - is it a welding, riveting or something else?

Where can I find such informations? Any books, ebooks, publications?

  • $\begingroup$ Very well, thank you. Had to borrow that lame joke from the SciFi board. $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2018 at 4:32
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisB.Behrens why do you think it is a lame joke? Unfortunately for me in my country is a lack of such informations. There is no academics books directly related to space industry. Thats why I'm looking for it. $\endgroup$
    – Marcos
    Mar 7, 2018 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ You misunderstand - "Very well, thank you" is a play on words that is you see a lot on a sister board to this one, scifi.stackexchange.com. Your question is perfectly fine. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2018 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


Modern spacecraft use a wide variety of materials, and it depends on the type and size of spacecraft.

For most large spacecraft the primary structural components are usually made of carbon composites, aluminum honeycomb, or a combination of both (i.e. aluminum honeycomb with carbon composite face sheets). As a result, you would rarely see welding or riveting. Most components would be brought together using brackets and bolts. Because bolts cannot easily go into a honeycomb material, there are usually special inserts that are epoxied into the honeycomb to serve as a "nut" to the bolt.

Inside the spacecraft, component boxes, such as those housing the computers would normally be made of aluminum. Some specialized components like propulsion tanks can be either aluminum, wrapped carbon composite, or even titanium.

Spacecraft like Dragon, Orion, and Cygnus, which are large pressure vessels (since they need to keep humans alive inside of them) are different altogether. The pressure vessel is usually made out of aluminum. I'm not sure how they are put together, but an article on Quora claims that the Node modules in the ISS were made from a single block of aluminum (no welds or rivets would certainly strengthen the pressure vessel).

For smaller spacecraft, such as CubeSats, the main structure is usually aluminum, and in that case it is usually riveted, but it could also be bolted. There are even efforts to 3D print the entire structure of small satellites.

As for books, I would recommend searching for "spacecraft design" on Amazon - there are many. Probably the most widely used - and which will answer many of your questions - is Space Mission Engineering, The New SMAD

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for there being a new SMAD. I didn't know that! $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    May 4, 2018 at 4:37

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