The Tech Side #15 Airlocks

Airlocks – sci-fi is full of them. Virtually every sci-fi series or movie out there makes use of the airlock as a plot device or at least as a feature of the story – we’ve seen them in Star Trek, Event Horizon – and who can forget Sean Connery’s escapades with airlocks in Outland?

Airlocks are a safety buffer or transition zone between areas of unequal air pressure. They facilitate the transfer of personnel from one vessel to the other in a way that doesn’t endanger either. More plainly, they protect a ship from depressurizing if a crew member goes outside or comes back in again.

They’re hardly a new invention, airlocks have been around since at least 1830 when Sir Thomas Cochrane registered his patent for use in building underground constructions. Watertight doors (a form of airlock tech) appeared in oceanic ships in the late 19th century. Airlocks were added to submarines to allow submariners to leave the sub in shallow water since before the First World War. They’re used in ships and submarines today, as well as in space shuttles and the ISS in orbit around Earth – and even in medical applications at bio laboratories and at the CDC.

Today we take a closer look at the airlocks aboard Terran Space Fleet vessels.

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