Monday, September 5, 2011


Sounds like a simple thing. Connect two spacecraft with an airtight mechanical seal that allows transfer of people and cargo between vehicles. Not when the geniuses do it.

They don't seem to appreciate the power of simplicity. First, it should be the same for all so somebody doesn't get a call, "sorry, your child, sibling or parent died because we were idiots." The same for all means androgynous rather than a master/slave difference. Simple means it should not include connections for fluids or electricity. Cables and hoses should not be a part of the design. That works against it's main purpose. It means they add explosives so they can disconnect in an emergency. If you keep it simple enough, no emergency requiring explosives would ever be required.

So, because this hasn't been the focus we have different docking adapters that don't work together and may lose the I.S.S. as a result. How much do we pay these guys?

Secondary ports may have different designs, but one primary port should be standard and identical to all others.

Berthing, as opposed to docking, just requires a flexible cable/hose with a standard androgynous connector at both ends. Include a robot if people are not going to make this connection.

This doesn't seem too objectionable and includes power connections. Simpler would be better.
UPDATE: So what would I do? Take the above and remove everything except a metal ring of a standard size and the two seals. Then add docking clamps to replace the guide petals. That's it. The docking clamps ensure rotational alignment and concentric mating and should deploy mechanically like a railroad boxcar. The clamps should hold tight enough to seal and overcome more than any expected forces. The release mechanism should be simple enough that explosives are never a consideration. No magnets, electrical connections or hook latches that might not release. I would include a chamfer inside the ring for sealant (stock sealant itself) to replace or backup damaged seals.  No pins and holes, although permanent connection is allowed by welding or bolting (drill your own holes.)  None of this affects how the dock is extended between vehicles which can be handled in any way that makes sense and does not require standardization.

Hoses should have a simple connector at each end. They don't need any valves to close them off. That would be part of the hoses they connect to which allows venting to vacuum before releasing the hose for storage. Power plugs should have one male and one female pin at each end. You can't get that wrong. It's a universal extension cord. That would actually work quite well here on earth as well.
Ok, so I'm a lousy artist and the tabs may be on the opposite sides or unneeded.

No comments: