We are on an orbiting research station in the near-ish future (100-200 years from now?)—like the ISS but bigger and with a little more space for comfort and convenience.

My protagonists have been brought there and shut up in a room (so they have food, water, restroom, and sleeping bags).

So what I’m trying to figure out is: What kind of interior door (not like an airtight hatch, just a thing you can shut) would make the most sense on a space station?

I’m thinking some kind of sliding door because it would take up the least space when open. Spaceship doors in scifi movies are always like weird polygons and/or have several panels that slide open from the center, but I assume that’s just because they look future-y and has no practical function.

I’ve also looked up how ISS hatches work, but those all look like they are connecting separate modules of the station and are made to be airtight and equalize pressure if necessary, which I don’t need here.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hi @ Serious Hat On. Worldbuilding stack-exchange -like all stack-exchange sites- has a policy of one question per post. You should take one question at a time. You can learn more about how we work in the tour and help-center. $\endgroup$ Aug 10, 2023 at 17:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If I were to choose, I'd start by asking the 1st question as the other 2 on locking and breaking out of doors will originate from this choice. I'd be careful however to clarify what problem you met when designing your Spation-3000 (tm) door : WB:SE is not really good at helping people generate qualitative pure brainstorming :). $\endgroup$ Aug 10, 2023 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ In addition to what Tortliena said, your question is entirely story based. Essentially, you've got a setting and you're asking us what choices your character should make. This kind of question is off topic here. In stead, I think you'd be better off if you reworded your question to be about the fictional world you're creating and how it works. Maybe approach this from a materials or technological perspective. If you did that, I'd certainly vote to reopen it! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 10, 2023 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ It may make a difference whether the station has artificial gravity, though spin or otherwise, or is in zero-G - please specify. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2023 at 3:03
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I agree with this question's closure and disagree with reopening. So many years into the future, those doors can be anything (literally anything) the OP wants them to be. In Star Trek TOS they were sliding doors. In Asimov's Foundation and Earth Golan Trevize wonders about the need for safety hooks on a ship with artificial gravity, telling us that the doors could be anything due to tradition. Given the future is far enough away that we can rely on sufficient Clarkean Magic to justify any door mechanism at all, I can't see that this is anything other than an opinion-based aesthetic. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 11, 2023 at 7:57

3 Answers 3


Most will be heavy duty and air tight.

The reason sci-fi (and the ISS) have these overbuilt looking doors is because they exist for redundancy. When you have an environment where a minor breach can kill everyone on board, you want your doors to be able to seal off a section of your structure to be able to save the rest of your ship/station when that part loses pressure.

These door will generally be at least somewhat rounded. On ISS, they are perfectly round because in a zero-G environment, there is no preferred "up", but even in gravity, you see see doors like the below shown naval door is still rounded at the edges because this helps make a stronger seal than if it had corners.


If you wanted something more futuristic feeling, you could remove the hand wheel, and have the door have a smoother façade with all the locking stuff being internal and powered by an electric system for greater convenance. But at the end of the day, you are standing in a giant bubble floating through the vacuum of space being bombarded by tiny particles moving at unimaginable speeds. Any door that encloses a space of more than a couple hundred square feet should have a pressure door just in case.

The rest will be a lot like normal doors

This is where author's choice matters more. What does a cabinet door look like, or the door to the bathroom? These non-pressure doors will be driven by a combination of fashion, function, and ease of use. That said, under gravity, I would expect them to not be much different than the doors in your own house. A light weight for easy of use, rectangular to make it cheap and easy to build and not take up more wall space than needed, and flush with the floor so you don't trip, etc. In a zero-g station/ship, I'd still expect some round doors though because of the no preferred "up" I mentioned before. It will just be a much lighter door.


Airtight, high-pressure, fireproof doors located in areas that logistically compartmentalize the ship's spaces.

Similar to @Nosajimiski's response but let's clarify the considerations. Your doors have the same design consideration for any ship: compartmentalize damage Engineers first decide how much space can be lost without losing the whole ship. Assume this is 10%, for argument's sake. The ship will be divided into sections such that if a hole breaches the hull at any location, no more than 10% of the space inside the ship will be lost when the doors are closed. On sea-going ships these are called "watertight doorways" and are very heavy duty.

Watertight doorway, Image (c) July Marine

Note also, these doors are generally NOT automated, or if they are, then they MUST have a manual override in the unfortunate case of lost power. These doors often have complex mechanisms keeping them pressure-tight, so all ships require everyone onboard to be trained in using them. Even cruise ships do this for their passengers, having a sort of "safety dance" as you see on airlines. Ships are on their own, and everyone might be called to action.

Other interior doors have the opposite consideration: Easily breached.

While the placement may simply fit your story, doors which only serve for privacy or convenience must be made easily accessed in case of an emergency. If an emergency team needs to reach the hull in your bedroom to patch a leak, that door must open up very easily so they can quickly get inside. Assume you had a solid latching door for your private suite with an electronic lock. Then a meteorite hits your room and electricity is lost, and air is being sucked out through your air conditioning vents. The emergency team tries to patch the hole, but can't get into your room! They have to go outside the ship? That would be a bad design.

So divide your ship into areas of a certain size with the mindset that if that space loses air, the ship will still survive. Those get your airlock-type interior doors. All other interior doors are simple interior doors which can be easily knocked down by emergency crews.

  • $\begingroup$ Very nice elaboration. +1 $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Aug 16, 2023 at 13:48

I wouldn't classify 1-200 years as nearish future myself, But nowadays' "least weight" rules always.

So depending on the space, if it doesn't NEED to be physically separated, a fabric/plastic accordion folding partition is likely the only divider to be installed. If it does need to be seperated the degree of the separation with the weight of the construction foremost in mind will dictate it's form. Airtightness? light reduction? Noise/heat/cold insulation? I expect this is arguable, but security is generally not an issue in space, though in time, these issues will change depending on population of the station. How well vetted are it's inhabitants etc. Then still only a minimum of structural weight would be implemented.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .