Dyson-Harrop Satellite
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Basic Information

A Dyson-Harrop Satellite Is a theoretical (and almost feasible with 2021 technology) energy-producing satellite that gathers charged particles from the Solar Wind and beams the energy from them to a planet (or space station). The version proposed in the original scientific paper is a 4-ton statite that looks like a 10-meter-wide donut-shaped solar sail pointing a 300-meter-long copper wire antennae at the sun, with an adjustable infrared laser on the other end pointed at whatever place you want the energy to go to. The charged particles pass the long copper wire, thereby generating an electrical current which powers the laser.

Like the statite components of a Dyson Bubble, this uses the power of the sun to maintain its position in relation to the sun, making it largely self-sustaining. It's possible a solar system could have several Dyson-Harrop Satellites in various orbits, generating a lot of power for those who live in the system, and distributing it to multiple planets or stations. This allows you to begin a stellar megastructure like a Dyson Swarm on a smaller scale initially, rather than dreaming big right out of the gate, and only expand it out into something collectively larger as needed.


Game and Story Use

  • A Type I Civilization on the Kardashev Scale might have such devices near each inhabited or explored world in their planetary system. They might eventually expand this network into a Dyson Bubble arrangement as they progress toward being a Type II Civilization.
  • If there's just a few of these in a system, they're not likely to block enough light from the star to be detectable outside the system. So here's an option for a big piece of stellar megastructure technology that could be relatively nearby (in cosmic terms) even in a fairly "hard" version of sci-fi with the same history as the real world.
  • As its orbit is self-sustaining, such a device could be leftover by precursors who have otherwise long-since faded from the galaxy. Being far from a planet may allow such a device to survive a war or disaster that wiped out the planetary population it once served.
  • Something could go terribly wrong with the infrared laser. It might become weaponized, or just misaligned and become a roving beam of hot death.
  • Could make for a cool bit of initially-inexplicable danger in an after the end setting. A certain area in the postapocalyptic wasteland is scorched by invisible radiation during particular hours every night. The burning zone of invisible death might also move on a cyclical pattern. Since nomad caravans are a staple of the postapocalypse, this could help reinforce themes and tropes that you're already planning to use in your setting. The players are told early on about the "wandering scorch", and the civilizations they meet take actions to avoid it, but don't understand the cause. Eventually, the PCs end up in some old bunker or science lab and find an explanation of what causes it. If this facility houses the original control system, they may be able to turn it off entirely, or aim it at the enemy camp.
    • Or re-align it to power up some ancient facility - one of the David Gemmell Drus novels featured some precursor tech, supported by legends about "a giant with a shield of silver" and "an eagle in love with its own reflection" … actually a mountain with a receiving dish and a broadcast power satellite designed to beam power into that dish. Somehow the primitves got hold of the controls, managed to deploy the dish, align the satellite and power up the facility. Hilarity ensued.
  • Circular solar sails and 300-meter antennae could be components of the very distinctive look of the technology and spaceships of one of the factions or alien species in your space opera. Fragile and elegant, so probably not warships.
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