The EcoSphere is the predominate form of human habitat as anticipated for the Solarian age, with most of the human population of the time expected to be true inhabitants of space. It has two basic variations, both based on much the same technology and both capable of evolving into either form but one creating a microgravity habitat, the other a centrifugal artificial gravity habitat. Which form is dominant in use will depend greatly on how well we clinically overcome the problem of space wasting by this time.
The primary structure of the EcoSphere is a vast spherical pressure shell self-constructed of NanoFoam using a diamondoid composition and integrating a large collection of basic life-support functions. The initial seed of an EcoSphere may be a small space station or spacecraft composed of a cluster of conjoined/linked modest-sized spherical or semi-spherical room chambers -almost akin to the cluster of cells that makeup a morula stage pre-embryo in living organisms- with a series of fins, petals or whiskers serving as radiators, solar collectors, and communications structures. As we will discuss later, many spacecraft of the Solarian age will tend to have architectures of this sort, being ‘grown’ from NanoFoam rather than assembled like vehicles of the past. Again paralleling aspects of biological growth, this initial structure would reorganize itself around a primary hollow core space and begin growing, with a supply of raw materials from outside, into a progressively larger and more uniform pressurized hollow sphere organized into a layered membrane.
The primary function of this membrane would be pressure hull and impact and radiation shield and a vast system of channels would be formed to store water serving as both a radiation shield and part of the integral CELSS -closed environment life support systems. The outside surface of the membrane would feature a light-gathering ‘skin’ lofted over the denser hull layers that functions simultaneously as photovoltaic array, optical light collector and filter, thermal radiator, and self-healing small impact Whipple Shield. Small -relative to the whole structure- surface blisters would feature plasma thrusters and plasma ejectors which allow an array of integral field coils to function as solar sails to provide orbital and attitude adjustment. Other surface features would include phased arrays for radar sensing, communications clusters, and several strategically placed -usually polar- recessed bays serving as docking ports for spacecraft and packaged/containerized materials.
Within various layers and cellular chambers within the membrane would be redundant CELSS, energy and materials storage, a vast data processing array hosting an equally vast Virtual Habitat and possibly large artilect populations, and a network of optical channels. These optical channels would link to the light collecting elements of the outer skin and would use this light in one of two ways. In the microgravity habitat they would be used to make the membrane virtually transparent, conducting light to an inner surface light emitter array layer, passing the desirable portions of exterior light through the inner structures of the hull membrane to illuminate the interior space. This is derived from the light transmitting hull of the EvoHab, from which the EcoSphere concept would evolve. With the benefits of nanofabricated precision and metamaterial optics, the EcoSphere’s light transmitting membrane would be quit optically ‘correct’, seeming to be completely invisible from a distance viewed inside and affording a clear view of natural space outside, though filtering the harshness of the sun and also with an option to display a diffuse light sky and graphical images of vast area.
In the centrifugal gravity habitat the inner surface of the hull is used as a habitat surface and so optical channels in the hull membrane convey and concentrate the light to the poles of the habitat where it illuminates a pair of bright polar dome light emitters, a polar light diffuser like an enormous fluorescent tube made of holographic membrane, or a balloon-like spherical microsun light diffuser suspended in the microgravity center of the the hull.
The interior of the microgravity EcoSphere would be a vast open pressurized volume in which habitat structures simply drift, free-floating with their own quiet station-keeping propulsion and powered by energy beamed from transmitters along the inner hull. Inspired by the Urban Tree habitats of the large EvoHab settlements of the Asgard phase, these habitats would be arcology-like (though generally smaller) microcities in an endless variety of forms and designs. Some may be actual living trees of enormous scale, cultivated into semi-spherical forms around hydroponic cores and host to clusters of treehouse dwellings. Others would be designed around various aesthetic themes and simulated materials, representing a new branch of architectural design devoid of connection to any ground surface. Large spheres of water, maintained by surface tension and tended by self-propelled robotic fans, may host assortments of adapted marine life and be used for recreation. Owing to the potentially vast volume of these EcoSpheres, small gravity habitats in the form short cylinders might spin amidst the other habitats and be used to host biomes with more gravity-dependent terrestrial plants and animals. Whole mined-out hollowed asteroids, used as seeds of some EcoSpheres, might be turned into unusual rock gardens, akin to gigantic Chia Pets,
The microgravity EcoSphere would have few limits on its potential size since the hull need only contain pressure. Though minuscule in relative mass, it could rival moons and planets in diameter. So large would the volume be that complex thermocycles may create unusual, if gentle, weather systems and require some active thermal management with the hull membrane radiator, light emitter, and possibly power transmission systems.
Transportation within the microgravity EcoSphere and among its free-floating habitats would employ more advanced, more streamlined, and larger forms of the same types of robotic microgravity vehicles employed in the Earlier EvoHab; personal RocShaws and public Pallet Trucks based on compressed air, cryogenic nitrogen, thermal-driven turbine, or ducted fan propulsion affording much higher speeds to span the much greater spaces and incorporating sophisticated automated navigation to deal with the slowly changing positions of destinations. Employing the more organic forms common to NanoFoam fabrication, these may often be similar to the lenticular ovoid hull forms of the airships of Aquarius, though much smaller (usually no larger than a bus) and
The gravity EcoSphere would present an interior environment similar to that suggested for the classic rotating space colonies proposed in the 1970s and 80s. They would be much smaller in potential volume than the microgravity EcoSphere because their hulls would have to be structured to withstand centrifugal force. But with the benefit of diamondoid materials they would far exceed the size imagined for those early space colonies and could potentially even rival the planet Mars in interior surface area. Though probably never as efficient as their microgravity counterparts, they would be created largely with the intent of reproducing terrestrial biomes as much as possible -an endeavor that, for some of the people of the Solarian Age, may supersede efficiency.
Externally, the gravity EcoSphere would be largely identical to the microgravity EcoSphere and integrate the same functional elements, adapted for rotation. (the microgravity EcoSphere would still rotate, but at a very slow rate) The chief difference would be in the design of its exclusively polar docking ports, which would require spacecraft to match the rotation of the structure as they approach and depart. Rotating on an axis parallel or perpendicular to their orbital paths, the bulk of the gravity EcoSphere’s interior would consist of a broad band of landscapes terraced concentrically toward the poles and with a shallow ribbon lake or sea along its equator. As noted earlier, the space would be illuminated by polar light diffuser domes, a core diffuser, or central microsun powered by the light channeled from the exterior surface of the sphere as its rotates. Intended to create a naturalistic environment, the inhabitants of the gravity EcoSpheres would
waste little surface space on roads and built structure, instead integrating their dwellings into the contours of the artificial landscape and along the edges of the stepped terraces climbing toward the poles. Primary transportation would be based on concealed PRT systems traversing the interior volume of the hull.
Like the microgravity EcoSphere, the gravity EcoSphere would produce its own unique forms of weather, but with the effect of centrifugal force a variable air pressure would be created leading to near-vacuum at the core and with weather effects tending to hug the interior surface curvature.
The numbers of EcoSpheres created across the Solarian Age and their diversity in size and aesthetic character may be incredibly great, as the potential material reserves in our overall solar system, beyond those of the planets, is quite vast. Hundreds of times the population of the Earth today may inhabit the solar system by the time of Solaria. Much like the arcologies of Earth, these EcoSpheres may be created as the homes of different communities/tribes and be designed to reflect their unique sub-cultures. Marshal Savage originally imagined the EcoSpheres as largely identical in appearance but it’s also quite likely they will be crafted to present varying surface appearances and graphic images to their neighbors across the solar system.
- Life In Solaria
- Solar Snowflake - Sunflower - Sundisc - Solar Ribbon
- Dyson Sphere
- Solarian Spacecraft
- Solaria Supporting Technologies