back to article Space station to get shiny new ringpiece for automatic penetration

NASA has shown off a shiny new piece of hardware that's going to make it easier to bring future gear onboard the International Space Station. Fresh supplies will be sent up to the orbiting science lab by a SpaceX rocket due to take off on Monday, weather permitting. The largest item in the manifest is the International Docking …

Ru'

Assuming this is like a front door for the station (stop me if I'm getting to technical, or -more likely- if I am utterly wrong), and assuming these things are all standard sizes, how do they get it off the supply craft and install it? I can't see how it would fit out of the supply craft's door in the first place...

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It'll be in the unpressurised trunk - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_(spacecraft)#Dragon_CRS - basically, only part of the dragon capsule is pressurised and accessed via a docking port. The rest can contain extra goodies but they're only got at by external means (robot arms or space walks)

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Ru'

"It'll be in the unpressurised trunk..."

Thanks for the info, and for putting my mind at rest that they've already thought this one through!

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Anonymous Coward

They just strap it to the roof racks before launch, like Mitt Romney's dog.

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Stop

Passive?

"It's a passive system which means it doesn’t take any action by the crew to allow docking to happen and I think that's really the key,"

If it does things automagically, that makes it an active system in my book. Just sayin'

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Pirate

Re: Passive?

"If it does things automagically, that makes it an active system in my book. Just sayin'"

I think the clue is in the following: "The IDA is studded with sensors that feed data to approaching spacecraft so that they can dock automatically without requiring help from inside the habitat."

Personally, I'd rather not have unexpected visitors just dropping in without me present if I was umpteen thousand miles up with nowhere to go if they're less than friendly.

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Re: Passive?

Personally, I'd rather not have unexpected visitors just dropping in without me present if I was umpteen thousand miles up with nowhere to go if they're less than friendly.

It's OK, it is, after all, only the "International Docking Adapter" not the "Interplanetary Docking Adapter".

Only participating nations on Earth have the plans for the International Docking Standard, so passing Aliens will be completely unable to connect to it.

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Re: I'd rather not have unexpected visitors just dropping in

Given that said visitors pay over $100 million to get there, I don't think that'll be happening all that often.

On top of that, using a firearm in the ISS would be suicidal, since the bullets would go right through the hull, thus depressurizing the station. The takeover attempt would stop pretty quickly after that.

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Re: I'd rather not have unexpected visitors just dropping in

since the bullets would go right through the hull

Glaser Safety Slug

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Re: Passive?

No, no, no...all Earth standards are immediately adopted throughout the Galaxy. Remember how easy it was to plug Jeff Goldblum's laptop into an (RS232?) connector in Independence Day to upload the virus?

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Megaphone

Re: Passive?

Boris Johnson trying to set up a trade agreement, post Brexit, for instance...

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Re: Passive?

Surely all they will need to connect will be a 1996 era MacBook?

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Re: I'd rather not have unexpected visitors just dropping in

There have been firearms on board the ISS, for dealing with bears or wolves. Not there have been wolves and bears on the ISS (though a gorilla has been spotted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFc1XWEkhpM )

A combination shot gun / pistol was included in the Soyuz capsule's emergency survival kit, should the ground recovery team not reach the cosmonauts before a hungry carnivore.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TP-82

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jzl

Re: Passive?

If they can visit you, they can kill you if they want. No need to go inside the station.

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Re: Passive?

Based on 30-pin and Lightning, we better hope any hostile aliens don't have a Belkin account manager.

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Re: Passive?

"Only participating nations on Earth have the plans for the International Docking Standard, so passing Aliens will be completely unable to connect to it."

Unless they have MacBooks which, as we know, include universal Terran-to-Alien protocol converters.

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Re: I'd rather not have unexpected visitors just dropping in

On top of that, using a firearm in the ISS would be suicidal, since the bullets would go right through the hull, thus depressurizing the station. The takeover attempt would stop pretty quickly after that.

It takes a long time for 900 cubic meters of air to bleed through a hole smaller than 10mm diameter. It would take 50 minutes to lose 10% of air pressure, ignoring any doors that get shut, and about 800 minutes to 90% depressurize (allowing for shifting mass flow rates due to different pressures and densities.) 30 cubic meter example.

Further, I'm not sure the bullets are going to "go right through the hull." First, the hull thickness of ESA and US modules range from 4 to 7mm of 6000-series aluminum (I'd guess 6061-T6), neglecting stiffeners, webbing, and so on. This is a non-issue for a rifle to penetrate, but lower-energy pistol rounds will encounter difficulty for anything other than square hits.

(A neighbor's SUV has recently sprouted a number of holes that were both apparently survivable and provided a fascinating case study in the capabilities of 9mm x 19mm munitions to penetrate sheet metal at varying obliquities, with a statistically useful number of divots and holes being introduced to the rear passenger side quarter while the SUV rapidly departed the vicinity of the weapon. I'm told another key finding from the ad hoc ballistics study is that one shouldn't assume every female in a short skirt on a street corner is available for companionship at reasonable rates, and her armed male companion may take umbrage at the pricing inquiry.)

Second, there's not a lot of areas where bare hull material is exposed in the interior. The ISS is stuffed with cabinets of hardware, hull insulation, interior paneling, and other equipment that turns any attempt to perforate the hull from the inside into a multi-surface impact scenario, which is rough on most non-armor piercing bullets.

As for the suicidal nature of firearms on the ISS, do note that the Soyuz capsule survival kits traditionally include firearms after the awkwardness of Voskhod 2, what with the Siberian wolves and bears in mating season and whatnot. Alas, the triple-barrel TP-82 with concealed machete has been replaced with a "conventional semi-automatic pistol" in the kits.

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Pint

Re: I'd rather not have unexpected visitors just dropping in

This is the sort of post that keeps me coming back to El Reg's forums. Have one on me!

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Re: Passive?

"Only participating nations on Earth have the plans for the International Docking Standard, so passing Aliens will be completely unable to connect to it."

But what if the aliens have an analogue for our universal adapter? IE: gaffer tape.

"You might be a green-neck from Sirius if..." :)

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Re: Passive?

They presumably asked the advice of "SureFlap" about this.

https://www.sureflap.com/en-gb/pet-doors/microchip-cat-flap

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Re: Passive?

"Personally, I'd rather not have unexpected visitors just dropping in"

However if you were unconscious due to problems with the environmental system it would be nice if an outsider could get in. After all Sandra Bullock could be passing by.

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Alert

Re: Passive?

umpteen thousand miles up

0.256 thousand miles up!

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Joke

"The standard, agreed in 2010, could prove vital"

Standards are a good thing, so good in fact that we need more of them.

Passive round shape accepts a standard probe for docking ..

My goodness we now have Space-rated-X

/me wonders what the innovator was doing / watching at the moment of this particular "Eureka"

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Re: "The standard, agreed in 2010, could prove vital"

Yes, they wouldn't want a repeat of the Mars Climate Orbiter bruhaha due to some backwoods nation holding onto archaic units of measurement.

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Trollface

Re: "The standard, agreed in 2010, could prove vital"

The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from :)

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Boffin

Re: "The standard, agreed in 2010, could prove vital"

It turns out the standard has it's own website, http://www.internationaldockingstandard.com/, with a pdf to download. Handy for those of you building spaceships in your shed.

Although it might have been agreed in 2010, it's clearly based on the Apollo/Soyuz docking adaptor, as developed by NASA and the USSR in partnership back in 1975. That's right kids, even in the middle of a Cold War, and a space race, engineers don't care about your petty politics, they just wanna SPACE.

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Re: "The standard, agreed in 2010, could prove vital"

I've yet to meet an engineer that in any way shape or form wants to get involved in (office) politics. We tend to want to get to the best technical solution, politics be damned. Be it space docking or sewer systems.

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Was speculating that SpaceX might reuse

... some of the "flew once, will fly again" Falcon boosters. As it turns out that the mission will carry some extremely expensive hardware, and already once destroyed in the fire, this seems less likely now.

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jzl

Re: Was speculating that SpaceX might reuse

It's not up to SpaceX. Under the COTS program, NASA gets the say on allowing a previously launched vehicle to be reused.

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$100 million - really?

I mean really? Someone please explain how anything like that can cost so much? Oh, and "it's rocket science" doesn't wash, with all the competition now out there. If you had said $10 million, I might have let it pass - possibly.

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Re: $100 million - really?

That figure probably includes the design, validation, testing, etc. of the system right from scratch, including answering important questions like "is it safe to be around this in a spacesuit?".

So the first unit can be said to cost $100M, and if you only build one that's the cost. One offs are always expensive. The replacement won't have cost anything near that, because you're not going through the whole design process a second time.

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Re: $100 million - really?

Now, you know you are not supposed to ask such questions. After all $99 million just bounced through the NASA account to some black opps outfit we are not supposed to know about.

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Re: $100 million - really?

@ twelvebore:

<quote>answering important questions like "is it safe to be around this in a spacesuit?"</quote>

Or the more important question "is it safe to be IN this WITHOUT a spacesuit?"

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Coat

Re: $100 million - really?

"I mean really? Someone please explain how anything like that can cost so much? "

Its cost is easily explained, it's designed by a newly formed wing of a certain famous Cupertino company - Apple Space Corp. It's much more expensive than other docking adapters, but it does look really pretty and has flashing lights and everything.

Of course in 3 years time the 'International Docking Adapter' will be replaced by the 'Interspatial Docking Adapter' which will allow docking from any orientation but will be incompatable with all previous adapters, so unfortunately everyone will just have to upgrade their space craft.

<coughs>

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Re: $100 million - really?

Oh, and "it's rocket science" doesn't wash,

It's rocket engineering that's changing the docking mechanism for multiple spacecraft. This means Soyuz, Dragon, and any ISS other visitors needed to modify their designs and hardware. After you get done proposing such design changes, testing and verification follow to make sure your modified spacecraft work, and then another round of modifications may be necessary if testing wasn't perfect. Russians being Russians, I'm sure they were happy to bill NASA for testing and Soyuz modification expenses.

In addition to the new docking mechanism blowed up by SpaceX, there would've been engineering prototypes to break on test rigs, and copies to send to partner nations for testing.

Point being: that one docking connector in this article's photo wasn't $100 million. Final manufacturing costs were probably under a few million. Everything else on the "Universal Docking Connector Program" (or whatever it was called) cost $100 million.

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Alert

Testing?

How do you test that your allegedly IDA compliant craft is actualy IDA compliant?

Just wondering...

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Trollface

Re: Testing?

Well if you're going by the book I suppose you have to wait for IDA to invite your spacecraft home first to see her parents...

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Important question

Do you get to listen to the Blue Danube as the docking computer kicks in?

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Re: Important question

Do you get to listen to the Blue Danube as the docking computer kicks in?

Well of course you do, it's built into the docking algorithm.

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"shiny new ringpiece for automatic penetration....."

so its a backdoor, not a frontdoor

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More pictures

...and diagrams here:

http://www.internationaldockingstandard.com/gallery.html

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Re: More pictures

SFW?

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Use Docking Computers

And you're not worthy of the black enamelled "Elite" pin.

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Coasting in orbit

is not going to achieve matched speed and position. It manoeuvres.

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And so began space piracy. ;)

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Will it only let them dock if the computer talks dirty to it?

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