Technical Entry – Dyson Swarm

Dyson Swarm

A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and captures a large percentage of its solar power output. The concept is a thought experiment that attempts to explain how a spacefaring civilization would meet its energy requirements once those requirements exceed what can be generated from the home planet’s resources alone, and where it will find living space for a growing population. Because only a tiny fraction of a star’s energy emissions reaches the surface of any orbiting planet, building structures encircling a star would enable a civilization to harvest far more energy… in fact, more energy could be gathered in several seconds than has been used by the species in their lifetime prior to the megastructure.

The version closest to Dyson’s original conception, and by far the most easily constructed, is the “Dyson swarm”. It consists of a large number of independent constructs (usually solar power satellites and space habitats) orbiting in a dense formation around the star. This construction approach has advantages: components could be sized appropriately, and they can be constructed incrementally. Various forms of wireless energy transfer, or wired transfer within ladder rings, could be used to transfer energy between swarm components if necessary.

Technically, the swarm around Maldoror is what is called a “Dyson bubble”. It would be similar to a Dyson swarm, composed of many independent constructs and likewise could be constructed incrementally.

Unlike the Dyson swarm, the constructs making it up are not actually in orbit around the star, but would be statites —satellites suspended by the use of mass and light sails, using radiation pressure to counteract the star’s pull of gravity. Such constructs would not be in danger of collision or of eclipsing one another; they would be totally stationary with regard to the star, and independent of one another, and because they are “stationary” relative to each other the material stress of connecting one to another is greatly lessened. Because the ratio of radiation pressure to the force of gravity from a star is constant regardless of the distance (provided the satellite has an unobstructed line-of-sight to the surface of its star), such satellites could also vary their distance from their central star.

Such sails would be sufficient to support space habitat the size of the L5 Society’s proposed O’Neill cylinder — 500 km2, with room for over 1 million inhabitants, massing 2.72×109 kg (3×106 tons). Multiple such sails could support a ring of far larger habitats… McKendree Cylinders, with room for billions and billions.

In theory, if enough satellites were created and deployed around their star, they would compose a non-rigid version of the Dyson shell mentioned below. Such a shell would not suffer from the drawbacks of massive compressive pressure, nor are the mass requirements of such a shell as high as the rigid form. Such a shell would, however, have the same optical and thermal properties as the rigid form, and would have a comparable level of habitability… and population density.

Space Habitats – McKendree Cylinders

Most of the habitats that orbit Maldoror are what are called McKendree Cylinders. Some of them use nanoweave-based artificial gravity, but most of them use rotation to simulate gravity. A cylinder would consist of two counter-rotating cylinders. The cylinders would rotate in opposite directions in order to cancel out any gyroscopic effects that would otherwise make it difficult to keep them aimed toward the Sun. Each would be 5 miles (8.0 km) in diameter and 20 miles (32 km) long, connected at each end by a rod via a bearing system. A McKendree cylinder contains 13 million square km of living space. At city density, that means a single one could contain as many as 250 billion lives… casted Kthid, casteless, and slaves. Most don’t contain nearly this many… but there is room for expansion well into the future.

For additional information, you might be interested in reading more here.