Friday, June 11, 2010

Solar Station Alpha

Been a little bit since I've updated the Terrible Secret of Space. If you don't remember, the Terrible Secret of Space is a game I'm designing expressly to be played over a blog. It covers a war between Earth and it's colonies in the solar system (played by you, the internet at large) and the evil invading aliens (played by me, the Dungeon Master. Mua ha ha ha.) Anyways, I've talked a lot about movement, and a bunch about the shields the ships will use. (Seriously, look up the Langston Field blog posts. They're very... wordy.) Today I'm going to do a little more traditional world building. Behold as I deploy Italics!

The sun never burned so harsh over Arabia as it did that morning over Solar Station Alpha. Of course Arabia had the advantage of position; located on the equator as it was it was still millions of miles farther out than the gigantic space station orbiting the sun. And "morning" is a deceptive term on a space station that never, ever turns it's massive solar panels away from the sun.

Orbiting perpendicular to the elliptic plane the planets all inhabited, Solar Station Alpha existed entirely to harvest the beating energies of our native star. It concentrates the energy into titanic beams of power that it shoots to relay satellites in other parts of the solar system which ultimately beam the power down to those who use it.

On Earth they don't use beam power. On Earth electricity is cheap. If you don't want to burn hydrocarbons or split Uranium you can fire up a fusion reactor to supply the demands of your cities. No, energy is cheap on Earth.

On the Moon it's a different story. On the Moon you have to pull your water up a gravity well at great expense, or mine it laboriously from the precious few ice crystals you'll find under the lunar dust. What water you do have is too important for drinking and bathing and producing rocket fuel to waste on merely generating electricity. No, that's why we beam power in.

We could set up the solar cells on the surface of the moon. The trouble with that is that the moon has a night that lasts several weeks; we'd need a lot of very powerful batteries supported by double the acreage of solar cells since you need to pull in twice the power every "day". On Solar Station Alpha, by contrast, there is no night. It beams it's power out continuously to relay satellites around the moon. The relay satellites also orbit perpendicular to the elliptic, but they don't orbit parallel to Solar Station Alpha. This angled approach lets them be constantly be in line of sight with the Sun and also intermittently cover the entire surface of the moon. It's that intermittent nature that requires there to be multiple satellites.

As every city requires power continuously, Solar Station Alpha cannot switch it's beams from target to target arbitrarily. So one emitter is built for each target. Currently there are three emitters for the relay sattelites around the moon, several for various space stations and space habitats and one brand new one for the colonies on Mars.

So we've got a massive solar power station orbiting the sun. It beams power out to other stations orbiting the moon, or other space stations and habitats directly. The question is, of course, what are the doomsday applications of this device? Let's ask Mr. Burns:

"Since the beginning of time man has yearned to destroy the sun. I will do the next best thing...block it out!" Monty Burns, Who shot Mr. Burns part I

Sure, if you could maneuver this into a different orbit you could block the sun out, causing owls to deafen us with incessant hooting and all. Still, there are much more interesting ways to show the world who's boss. Suppose that you had one of these and the beam missed. If you pump huge amounts of energy into stuff that isn't designed to accommodate it you're gonna have stuff melting, or fires starting or all sorts of neat stuff. But you knew that already; why else did you put all those elementary schools next to the microwave power plant in Sim City 2000? (Projecting? I'm not projecting. You're projecting!)

Anyway, yeah, you could redirect the beam from it's intended target and use it as a weapon. Unfortunately it won't work that well against spaceships; assuming that the spaceship is out past Mars you've got a real problem what with light speed delays and knowing where your target is, and where it's going to be when the beam hits it. You've got a much better chance at hitting stationary targets. Well, relatively stationary targets. I mean you can hardly say something is standing still when it's on a rotating planet which is also revolving around the sun. But the important thing is you can predict where the object is going to be, therefore you can hit it. (I'm assuming these beams can be targeted very accurately.) This won't accomplish much; in the case of an enemy takeover of Solar Station Alpha the cities of Earth would put up their Langston fields, and you couldn't do much. Sure, you could focus fire on one for an entire day, but it'd have a whole night to cool off.

What you could do is lay waste to the smaller, provincial towns. This won't accomplish much for destroying infrastructure but it would be a good way to get the people clamoring for the military to shoot you out of the sky. You could lay waste to a continent one acre at a time; starting wildfires and generally trying to overpower their firefighters. Seems sort of petty, actually.

Probably more interesting, how is this system open to attack? Pretty obviously if they take out Solar Station Alpha then a whole number of spots in the solar system are deprived of energy. We can presume they have backup generators for essential things like emergency lighting and Langston Generators, but it'll certainly shut down any heavy industry in the afflicted city or space station. You can get this effect on a more limited scale by shooting down one of the relay satellites.

Which of course means that Solar Station Alpha and the relay stations will all have Langston fields of their own, just like everything else. I mean, at this point I practically have one on my dog's collar. The satellites can all operate with shields up; the field allows holes to be punched in it to emit important things like laser blasts. Trouble is, that'll decrease the efficiency of the operation; wearing a shield makes it harder to tell precisely where your sending your beams of energy; increases the chance for a catastrophic failure. Or, if your target has his shields up it won't be much of a disaster, but the stream of power will be interrupted. The intermittent blackouts won't shut industry down but they will cut down on your efficiency.

Well, that makes enough for one post. Next time I might even get into the difference between space habitats and space stations.

No comments:

Post a Comment