Why Engineers Used Wood To Build Spacecraft

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Wood is such a traditional building material we sometimes forget that it can have exceptionally useful material properties. Some spacecraft have used wood and wood based materials in their construction, even the latest SLS rocket has large areas coated in cork to insulate it from heat.

  1. Scott Thomas

    Didn’t Skylab have teakwood door gaskets? Something I remember from 10th grade physics class…

  2. Steve Sloan

    Was it me, or didn’t you mention the USSR’s version of the space shuttles hull? 😐 Oak.👊🏻🇦🇺🍀😎

  3. namibjDerEchte

    I wish there was something like metallic foam but from uhmw-pe. That stuff is awesome and easy to recycle (thermal cracking into methane).

  4. Max K.

    Multiple reentry-vehicles of nuclear warheads also used Cork

  5. Blitzvogel

    I’m waiting for space radiation to effect space based cork and wood to create our new lumber overlords.

  6. Just so I can Fing comment

    Scot, where did you find that thermal conductivity chart?
    Please link it?

  7. Night Raven

    Boiling off lignin I believe is also the way to make “cooling wood” though having only read articles and not reviewed the experiment itself, I can’t vouch for the legitimacy of the media’s claims

  8. JAMES! Since the 70's

    I guess it could be said, they got wood, and building a rocket!!

  9. Javaritto

    Wait, the FSW used a heat shield made of white oak? I wonder if you could age bourbon (followed by scotch) in barrels made of used heat shield.

  10. Fourth Root

    I love learning about something that confirms that a crazy idea I’ve had has merit.

  11. rex mundi

    Synthesising some natural materials is actually a kind of holy grail for materials development. Offhand I’m thinking of spider silk, barnacle adhesive, rat teeth, all natural materials created by living organisms without the use of fossil fuels or exotic or toxic substances. Natural does not mean primitive: in fact replicating the useful properties of many natural materials is beyond our current technology.

  12. Wesley Johnson

    You forgot the Trident II D5 missile nose fairing, a spruce-fiberglass laminate

  13. ControlledChoas. 1

    I just imagine a advance alien civilization finding a earth spacecraft made of wood and laughing

  14. David Vavra

    I seem to recall some wood in the V2, wartime shortages and all.

  15. Radmonkeyboy

    Scott, do you have any thoughts on why aerogel has not been significantly used on spacecraft for insulation?
    I know it’s expensive now, but if produced in bulk, it should be cheaper ….

  16. Stop Killing Me Gaming

    I live near the spruce goose! They’ve turned it into a museum/waterpark.

  17. Bram Moerman

    Wood is the original Carbon Fiber 😀

  18. Sfer Tonoc

    So explains how dna got on Earth… alien spaceship drones made of wood.

  19. bjooo

    Pretty interresting subject for an arborist AND a space geek !

  20. AndyB

    Love the accent….”Spruuse Guuse” :-)

  21. Le Z

    wood??? the good. It is an environmentally friendly material. even the space !!! success.

  22. Hephen Stawking

    Scott’s discussions about space tech always give me wood.
    I’m so sorry.

  23. Yuarian Smith

    Studying engineering really does weird things to the mind. (I’m studying mechatronics, so I speak from experience)

  24. Jack Sainthill

    To give a Carpenter a job, perhaps? I’m thinking, in particular, of one named Scott, who conducted a too flamboyant (for some) Aurora 7 flight.

  25. David Lundberg Jeppesen

    3:00 “the casual heat of burning rocket motors” best quote of Scott’s

  26. Saviliana

    So if we lost all the tree on earth, there were a peice of back up wood on the moon so we could extract DNA form.

  27. Vasile Sulica

    In the future we gonna make heatshild from rockwool ,stone age style space program, are no trees on the moon but basaltic rocks are plenty .

  28. YankaRonin

    Wooden spaceships remind me of the first Samorost game. :D From the same studio that made Botanicula and Chuchel.

  29. Pixel Schnitzel

    I think you may have mispronounced “wewd”. :-)

  30. Ace Athor

    Corks of wine bottles…
    Red ♫ red wine ♪ you make me feel so fine ♪
    You keep me rockin’ all of the time ♫

  31. DemoGorgonZola

    “scientist managed to make metallic wood”
    Natural aluminum christmas trees anybody?

  32. Stormforce VII

    Ksp video: to orbit with only 4 by 2 rocket parts.

  33. avi8r66

    I would imagine it also helps deal with vibration dampening of the surfaces to which it is applied.

  34. Ron Seipel

    Americans.. We can’t build a rocket out of wood!
    Russia.. hold my Vodka.

  35. hamsandwich 25

    I’ve never heard of this material “woot”. I’ll look into it

  36. Alexander G

    Please, please do a video about Copenhagen Suborbitals. They are the only space organization that is entirely crowdfunded. They all work in their spare time, and they are truly amazing in what they have managed to accomplish.

  37. CybershamanX

    (0:28) I love the way Scott says “spruce goose”. :) Love ya, man! Keep making wonderful videos for us to watch with interest! :)

  38. Asger Vestbjerg

    Wow, interesting applications
    Thanks for sharing :-)

  39. mike mathews

    I had no Idea that wood would be used this way for spaceflight.

  40. Otpyrc Ralph Pierre

    I get wood just thinking about a space-ship…..

  41. SteverRob

    btw the RS25s are currently being mounted to the boattail.

  42. RandomPsychic

    lol just ask the North Korean military…they make ICBMS out of paper mache too …

  43. Gustav Gnöttgen

    I love your channel, your work, your Kerbals and your accent. Wood and sproose goose made my beer even more delicious. Fly safe, cap!

  44. Laura Harris

    Larry Niven introduced us to _Stage Trees_ . Genetically engineered trees with trunks of solid rocket fuel.

  45. Si C.

    Cork? Excellent. Get growing those spaceships folks!

  46. Ottee2

    Cork is an amazing material. I’ve used it as a plumbing hack on several occasions.

  47. mumblbee bee

    Really nice little addition to the canon, thank you!
    Made me realise that it was high time to re-read Elizabeth Bear’s “Hammered” series – with the ‘living tree space-ship’ and the Feynman AI ;)

  48. rpbsjy

    Where do you get this stuff from? (I mean the ideas and information, not the cork and the wood…)

  49. Helium Road

    I knew spaceships were made from wood, learned it playing Spelljammer back in the day ;-)

  50. Myron Ma

    Glad spaceship having the wood veneer nowadays.

  51. Donald J Trump

    This should be building toy rocket from wood

  52. Scott Haley

    Super cool video Scott !
    Makes me want to build some cork model rockets

  53. MIMIK

    There are your wooden spaceships!
    Edit: yup, tagging doesn’t work

  54. Glow Berth

    Up Next:
    *Why are scientist building a particle(board) accelerator?*

  55. zapfanzapfan

    If the bark can protect the tree in a forest fire then it’s probably up to the task of protecting a reentry vehicle

  56. Don donny

    Thank you!
    Awesome presentation!
    Wood was also bulked, pressure treated and stabilized in the U.S.S.R. and used for dimensionally critical molds, the extent it was used is unknown and the exact prosess is lost, but it was used because the individual components that make up wood are more dimensionally stable to temp changes then most metals.
    (Wood is of course not dimensionally stable without treatment)

  57. Bodragon

    (4:28) – Phenolic resin?
    Oh yes,

  58. strange lee

    So…how do you calculate the Plank length?

  59. Zytran L

    Does the wood used in these spacecrafts have DNA and/or RNA?
    You know what I’m thinking.

  60. Garrin Riggin

    Always good, but SO interesting today. Thanks Scott.

  61. Claudy_Focan

    Best cork (the one used by NASA) comes from Belgium ! It’s even called after a city here ! The “Liege” wood !

  62. Forra Descren

    I fear I won’t nearly be the first to make this reference but I can’t resist so…

  63. zzz43452

    Because they thought that woukd help them build what actually flies (like Russian rockets), not just in Kubrick fimls. And they could bot think of anything more Russian than wood.

  64. Lukas Skymuh

    One aspect was missing: vibration damping. Thats one reason why it is used in many fearings (also not mentioned)

  65. Brian

    Lowtech solutions are great. If its cheaper, safe and works why wouldn’t you use it.

  66. CalgarGTX

    It’s all fun and games until some rodent/insect/bird/mushroom/parasite decides to drill through it to nest or w/e and your space ship explodes

  67. Coacervate Droplet

    In “The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet” two boys nailed used tin cans over a wooden frame and Mr. Bass painted it with special stuff and it flew to Basidium. Several times as I recall.

  68. Jack Turner

    How long before Ancient Aliens dedicates a show to the prehistoric wooden Space Ships?

  69. Laura Harris

    Estes Industries has been responsible for a whole lot of wooden rocket parts getting launched into neighbor’s back yards, onto the roofs of buildings, and into oblivion. I know from personal experience!

  70. Simply Space

    You mention wooden planes but don’t mention the wooden wonder, DeHavilland Mosquito 😥

  71. dpbghhdbfpdg hhgdpgpgpgghdpdgh

    I’m imagining a very loud, drunken, angry scotsman yelling about going to the moon in a rocket made of wood and using a lot of profanity.

  72. Dangermouse

    Ah, WOOD – The original carbon fibre. 😁

  73. Charles Gourin

    During WW2 the nazis where envious of the British plane De Havilland mosquito made of wood. Göring said “a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building… they have geniuses and we have nincompoop.” At the time they where already building the first rockets the V2.

  74. oak

    Wood was used beginning in the 1940’s as a hybrid rocket fuel grain…

  75. Wallace

    Hi Scott – an idea for a future video … what spares and tools were on the Apollo missions ? I know they used gaffer tape on Apollo 13 to get the CO2 filters to work – but what else did they have ?

  76. coconinoco

    So how does the biological nature of the cork used for the Schiaparelli demonstrator fit with planetary protection?

  77. Archaeoptery X

    Phenolic resin, essentially bakelite. Wood and bakelite spaceships, how awesome is that? Just need to install a solar sail and some hemp rigging !

  78. bami2

    In before Matthias Wandel
    joins the chat.

  79. Márton Kiss

    Wookies are proud of us.
    (Yep they made wodden spacecraft according to Star Wars Legends)

  80. Jacob Stewart

    *Ah yes, my morning is complete*
    Seriously though, keep up the good work Scott!

  81. DemoGorgonZola

    Wooden starships… what next steam powered ones?… oh nevermind, hydrogen peroxide as fuel is a thing.
    Apparently steampunk is not as far fetched as it seamed. ;-)


    Because 1 log = 4 planks whole 1 iron ore = 1 iron ingot.. simple economics and biology

  83. Pass The Butter Robot

    If the Tudors had launched rockets, I’d like to think they’d have been half-timbered.

  84. Savage User

    So IKEA will build a space rocket in the near future?

  85. Interdimensional

    The key components of a wooden space-craft hull are hoops, rivets, and staves. The interior can be coated with tar to keep space out.

  86. Tyler

    “wewd” – scott manley, 2019


    The mighty Saturn 5’s max Q is always beautiful…..

  88. X -RAF

    There’s a T-shirt slogan if ever there was one – ‘Rocket Engineers Get Better Wood’?

  89. Jeff Vader

    Wait wait wait is that a wooden Buran? I mean I know the soviets were on a tight budget but…

  90. Flamerule13th

    Just refer to wood as a “biodegradeable porous polymer composite” on the blueprint

  91. Mark Furst

    I think the ISS could use some nice paneling.

  92. xnademolicious

    So cutting down trees in Civ 4 to build the Space Program quicker did make some sense!

  93. GoatzAreEpic Maokai

    The more I learn about rocket science, the less I seem to know about rocket science…

  94. Duane Degn

    For those wondering about the wooden spaceship at the end I found the following text in the article *This Giant Abandoned Soviet Spaceship Made of Wood Looks Like the Ultimate Children’s Playground Feature:*
    *”This decaying wooden spacecraft was used as a wind tunnel model in the 1980s for the VKK Space Orbiter”*

  95. Henry Atkinson

    Related to this, but as an engineer, I can confirm CAD stands for both computer aided design and cardboard aided design.

  96. Nillie

    The “Spruce Goose” was actually primarily made of birch, but there aren’t many common birds that rhyme with “birch”.

  97. Human Person

    Cork has evolved to protect the tree from fire, makes sense it also protects rockets from heat

  98. PCPartLicker

    Looks down at my aerospace-grade cork coaster

  99. Saturn V

    Apple: we used aerospace graded aluminum!
    Aerospace engineer: Actually we used wood.

  100. battlekruiser

    Normal people begin with wooden pickaxe
    Kerbals begin with wooden Buran

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