Earth Orbit Statite
Tech Level: 12
Solar Orbit Statite
Tech Level: 13

An unusual concept with so far little in the way of official documentation or study of the concept, even in science fiction. The idea was originally conceived by NASA’s legendary advanced propulsion expert Robert L. Forward in 1989.

Tech Level: 12

A statite (a combination of the words "static" and "satellite") is a specialized type of lightsail that uses light pressure to precisely counteract the force of gravity on it, allowing it to "hover" in one place over a massive body without the need to actually move in orbit about it. Forward proposed placing statites over both the arctic and Antarctic poles, to function as "geosynchronous" orbital-altitude relays to facilitate global communication and monitoring in those remote regions of Earth.

Disk-shaped or parabolic shaped solar sails have been mentioned as possible configurations, but heliogyros could perform this function as well. See the section on Light Sails for further information. If used as a communication relay, the sail itself could act as the reflective medium itself for bouncing radio signals from one part of the globe to another. Depending on its size, it could also carry a payload to receive and transmit digital signals and monitoring equipment. Statites could also serve as beacon satellites for an advanced GPS network.

Tech Level: 13

Massive statites have also been proposed to be placed at advantageous spots in close orbit around the sun, collecting the radiation for power and beaming it back to either human settlements for energy or focusing elements to beam power to solar sail craft in the outer solar system. Creating solar power statites would be tricky; one would need to precisely balance the reflective aspect of the sail for enough light pressure to keep it aloft, but also allow enough light absorption to make the energy-gathering worthwhile.

Solar orbit statites of truly gigantic proportions--measuring thousands of kilometers across--have been sited in building certain types of megastructures, such as Type I Dyson Spheres and Sun Movers.


In Print:

Indistinguishable From Magic by Robert L. Forward

On The Web:

Article added 10/06