An airlock is a passage or a small room that enables people or goods to pass between places differing in pressure by adjusting to the pressure difference between them. Below, we will first give an overview of an airlock then introduce Kibo's airlock.
1. What is an Airlock?
An example is Space Shuttle's airlock. When extravehicular activities (EVA) are conducted, astronauts exit the Space Shuttle through its airlock. In the future an airlock will be attached to the International Space Station, which is now being constructed, and crew members will exit the ISS to conduct EVAs.
Click here to view airlock operation procedures for EVA.
2. Kibo's Airlock
As shown in the figure below, the airlock is cylindrical and is attached to the pressurized module's manipulator side. One cylinder hatch is located on each side. The hatch on the PM side is called the inner hatch; the hatch exposed to space is called the outer hatch. Items to be transferred through the airlock are first fastened on a slide table then transfered by sliding this table. The inner hatch has a small window that enables viewing the inside of the airlock.
3. Using the airlock
Kibo's airlock operation is explaned below using the example of moving items from the PM to the EF. First, turn on the power and open the inner hatch. Extend the slide table into the Pressurized Module, fasten the items to it, move the table back into the airlock, and close the inner hatch. Evacuate the airlock using a vacuum pump, then open the outer hatch. Extend the slide table to the Exposed Facility side, pick up the items by the remote manipulator, and put the items on the EF. Slide the table back into the airlock and close the outer hatch. Return the air to the airlock and turn off the power.
The figures below show the procedure stated above.
4. Dimension of Kibo's airlock
Functional tests of the slide table and the hatches were conducted on August 4 and 5, 1999.
The test report is presented here.