How To Build A Cardboard Spacecraft

Jan 22, 2016

After moving to a new house last week, we are rediscovering the simple joys of playing with cardboard boxes.

As we unpacked, our son stashed away all the empty boxes and started building robots and rockets.

We were worried that he wouldn't get enough exercise now that it's cold outside, but he has solved that problem—by stacking and climbing on boxes, pushing them around and hiding inside them.

After a while, we couldn't resist the fun and joined right in. We were on a mission to see what kind of spaceship we could build if the whole family joined forces.

Our boy was voting for building a TIE fighter, but Daddy chose a more realistic prototype for our creation. Our spaceship is based on a Soyuz capsule—the spacecraft currently responsible for bringing astronauts and supplies to and from the International Space Station.

You Will Need:

  • three small cardboard moving boxes (16" x 12" x 12")
  • a roll of aluminum foil
  • hot glue gun, packing tape and spray adhesive
  • a little saw, hobby knife and scissors
  • empty cups and yogurt containers for adding details

This is how we built our spacecraft.

We glued one box shut, then cut the corners off one end to make it octagonal.

The octagon end needed to be extended in length, while reducing in girth. To do this, we made eight trapezoids, four of which integrated a triangle into their wide bases, to cover the triangular holes made in the last step.

The smaller octagonal opening at the top was then filled with a piece of cardboard

4 photos of the process of building a spaceship from a cardboard box.

The spheroid portion at the front of the space capsule was made with 8 cigar-shaped pieces of cardboard taped together along their long edges.

The narrow ends of the cigar shapes were the same width as one side of the small octagon (so that the top and bottom of the sphere were octagons of the same dimensions), and the widest part of the cigar shape was slightly wider than one side of the larger octagon.

The ends of the sphere were capped with octagons and it was then glued to the body of the capsule, matching up the octagons to form a waist.

3 steps to making the sphere at the front of the Soyuz capsule.

We then cut kid-sized oval holes slightly back from the centre of the main box. We cut the holes through the side walls of the box, rather than the double-thickness top and bottom.

The entire thing was then covered in aluminum foil. We used spray adhesive, but hot glue or tape would do.

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The thruster portion at the back was made from the ends of another box. The box was assembled and closed, then cut in half from top to bottom.

To make the flare at the back, the box was cut open at the edges and opened out, the resulting gaps filled with triangles of cardboard. The other unused half of the box was then nested inside the flare, to make it stronger and so there was something to glue thruster cones onto.

3 steps to making a cardboard Soyuz capsule.

We then added the solar panels. They were made of cardboard rectangles, inserted and glued into slots that we cut in the sides of the capsule. They had some marker work done on them as well.

In addition to a bit more marker work, we added some other small details with disposable cups and paper rolls to finish it up.

A completed cardboard Soyuz capsule.

The little astronaut was babbling with excitement when he could finally take his spacecraft for a test flight!

A little boy inside a cardboard Soyuz capsule.

Article Author Liska Myers
Liska Myers

When not constructing lego towers and measuring the depth of puddles with her son, Liska likes to work on toys for him. Her blog Adventure in a Box is a collection of ideas on how to fill a playroom with unique homemade toys: build a fairy tree house, cut shadow puppets, give a makeover to old wooden blocks and so on. Liska also enjoys reading, painting, and exploring outdoors. You can follow her family's life and adventures on her blog, Facebook and Instagram.

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