Docking latches

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Close up of the docking latches on a Galaxy class during hull separation maneuvers

The docking latch system in use was originally developed during the design of the Galaxy class. The Nebula class a sister class to the Galaxy also incorporated the latching system into its design to hold the mission pods in securely in place. The system has proven so dependable that the system has quickly become the standard system for securing to hull sections together. On ships classes with swappable mission pods this has allowed for a pod swap out in less that twenty-four hours. If the maintenance facility is given enough lead time to prep a new mission pod. One of the most dramatic uses of the latching system had been the development of the Multi-Vector Attack Mode developed for the Prometheus Class. The use of the latching system has allowed ships of the Prometheus to routinely separate into three independently operating sections to attack a target from multiple angles be for redocking and continuing as a single unified vessel.

Docking Latch Components

Each docking latch has two spreading grab plates measuring 6.9 by 7.2 meters and are constructed of diffusion-bonded tritanium carbide similar to the space frame. These grab plates are designed with molybdenum jacketed wave guides built into the plates to accept and transfer energy from the Structural Integrity Field. The dorsal surface of the grab plates is covered with standard Ablative hull coatings for exposure to the general space environment. When not in use the latch plates are housed in a recessed section of the hull.

The latch plates and docking wedge are driven by electro-fluidic pistons. Each of the pistons consist of a main fluid reservoir, magnetic valve controller block, piston computer controller, attach brackets, pressure manifolds, and redundant sensor assemblies. The latch plates are driven by two different sets of pistons were one set moves the plates in the X axis and the other set in the Y axis. The locking wedge has one set to move it in the X axis. Each set of pistons consist of multiple pistons to provide redundancy in the event of failure of up to two pistons.

The latch plate holding apertures are located in the opposite hull section from the docking latches. The apertures are recessed sections of hull designed to accept the grab plates. The apertures have two main sections. The well designed to accept the latch plates when the plates are in the ready poison and the pockets designed to give the plates a secure housing when in the fully deployed position. The pockets are equipped with SIF energy transfer connections to distribute SIF energy through the docking latches.

Like the latch plates the structural locking wedge are constructed of diffusion-bonded tritanium carbide. The locking wedge provides a mechanical means of holding the docking latches in the fully deployed position.

Docking Latch Operation

When deployed, the latches are raised into the ready position by the Y axis pistons. Once the two hull sections are in position to complete the hull docking X axis pistons move the latch plates into the fully deployed position and the locking wedge is moved into place. At that point the SIF energy is conducted through the latch plates to rigidize the combined vehicle.

Piston control is maintained under computer control to ensure smooth operation of the latching system and that all latches engage simultaneously. Under emergency situations automated control can be overridden and the latching system operated manually.