The days of high-tech metal mountings to hold spacecraft together are gone, according to the man designing Virgin Galactics' commercial spaceplanes. Apparently, all you need is glue. Knowing that, suddenly we're much more worried about flying in a Virgin ship.
To be fair, Burt Rutan - whose Scaled Composites firm is designing Virgin's spacecraft - isn't entirely relying on glue; he also thinks that a rethink of spacecraft design is necessary, and his redesign was just patented in the US. The idea, he argues, is to attach the craft's fuel tanks inside the spacecraft in order to reduce the ship's weight, and therefore use less fuel in order to lift the ship into orbit.
It's thought that Rutan's redesign will be used in his revision of the Ansari X prize-winning SpaceShipOne rocket, although critics of Rutan's theory point out that his idea places the fuel tanks next to the combustion chamber, meaning that any failure of the adhesive — or fuel leak — could result in disaster far more easily.
How to glue together a lighter spacecraft [NewScientist]