We have a space station, which is the object of docking (OOD), and a spaceship, which is the docking object (DO).

What's the name of the area between the DO and the OOD once the DO docks with OOD?

I thought it was "a bridge" at first but a bridge is "the raised part of a ship on which the captain and other officers stand and from where they control the movement of the ship".

I was thinking of "ramp" but no dictionary has a definition I need.

I found "docking port" at NASA but it refers only to the retractable socket that grips the docking ship.

I found "docking compartment" and "docking module" but can't understand what they refer to.

Edit: The area should be a tunnel of some kind through which an astronaut must pass in order to reach the station.

It should be something like this only in space. It should be extendable and lead to a decompression chamber of the space station. It may be rectangular or cylindrical or any other shape. It may be within another extendable object like a wrapped tunnel. Is there some unified name for it?

  • 1
    "object of docking" makes little sense to me. I don't see the rationale for the periphrasis. It's like calling a knife "the object of cutting". Do you mean to say it is "the dock"? And what do you mean by "area"? Are you referring to the means whereby passengers or cargo can go from ship to dock?
    – TimR
    Jul 7, 2017 at 13:09
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I have included answers to that in my question. The "knife" in your case is the cutting object and the object of cutting would be "an apple" for instance. Jul 7, 2017 at 13:22
  • I don't see anything that explains the (strange and unnatural) periphrasis when simple nouns are at your disposal. Dock, ship. I believe it to be the result of an acronym fetish.
    – TimR
    Jul 7, 2017 at 13:24
  • Interface? Airlock? Docking collar? Mating collar? Plug? Outlet?
    – Jasper
    Jul 7, 2017 at 17:27

4 Answers 4


I would call the means of ingress/egress to/from the station the gangway.

P.S. We can call the means of ingress/egress to/from the station the gangway because a gangway is the name for the structure that allows people and cargo to cross from the ship over to the dock (and vice versa). The situation in space is analogous. We even call them "space ships".

P.P.S. Gangway An opening in the bulwark of the ship to allow passengers to board or leave the ship. (Wikipedia Glossary of nautical terms)

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    I am inclined to agree with you, but would you care to explain why you think that this a good answer?
    – JavaLatte
    Jul 7, 2017 at 13:55
  • Because it is a simple analogical application of existing shipping terminology.
    – TimR
    Jul 7, 2017 at 14:11
  • 1
    I'm inclined to agree as well. It's also similar to the jetway you'd walk across between an airport and an airplane (actually a brand name of "jet bridges"). But this answer could stand to be expanded a bit.
    – cjl750
    Jul 7, 2017 at 16:20
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    I think this is an interesting choice. The definition of gangway has the idea of the passage being temporary or movable: gangplank:a movable bridge used in boarding or leaving a ship at a pier, gangway: passageway, especially : a temporary way of planks I wonder though if it is more for something the ship pulls up to (a pier or dock) than for an object that pulls up to the ship (another ship). A space station would be a pier equivalent though.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 7, 2017 at 17:00

Within reason, I think the terminology is open to debate and change, as different mechanisms appear and the physical structure changes (and people try to be creative and quirky, because space is cool again).

If, for example, you had a tunnel (extendable or permanent) then it would be entirely reasonable and understandable to call it a docking tunnel (used in some NASA documentation) or a docking sleeve if extendable.

The probe, drogue, tension tie, and a docking ring are the principal components of the docking subsystem. Each module also contains a docking pressure hatch and a tunnel through which the astronauts will transfer from one vehicle to the other.

Your dismissal of bridge might be a bit premature, as it also refers to something people can travel (float?) across, which would work in this context.

I'm not sure, as a native speaker, that ramp seems to work here. To me, it implies moving up a slope.

A docking module is a more generic term that might mean the docking mechanism, including its mating ring, or it could mean the entire structure including any tunnel.

  • Logically speaking, if you have an object of docking and a docking object, it would reason that their connection is simply a dock. As in, "Astronauts traveled between the spacecraft via the dock."
    – EllieK
    Jul 7, 2017 at 13:49
  • @EllieK Absolutely, which would probably put it in the same basket as "docking module," to describe the whole structure, tunnel and physical mating structure and all.
    – Dan
    Jul 7, 2017 at 15:04
  • Note that the tunnel people walk through to get between an airplane and an airport is a jet bridge. So I'd also think "bridge" could work here too.
    – cjl750
    Jul 7, 2017 at 16:18

If you merely want to refer to it, it would be called the dock. It's really not important if it's a long tunnel, a zero-length portal, or an extension of both ships connected in the middle, "dock" works well and will be understood.

If you for some reason need to illustrate what the dock looks like, then you might use docking tunnel or docking station but for simple reference -- just dock.


My personal choices might well be docking station and docking port as a reasonably generic term for describing a place where something can dock (although probably not the bit that joins the two). A Wikipedia article on spacecraft docking and berthing appears to favour docking interface.

The bit that joins the two could be called a docking arm or transfer passage (the term used in the Wikipedia article). If it was reasonably small, it could probably be called an airlock.

I guess if you are most interested in the connector (which is I guess another word you could use), it would seem transfer passage is the most appropriate existing term, although I don't think anyone would know what you were talking about out of context.

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