Dyson Dots & Geoengineering: The Killer App Ad Astra

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R. G. Kennedy et al. (2013), JBIS, 66, pp.340-358

Refcode: 2013.66.340
Keywords: Geoengineering; solar radiation management; photovoltaic solar sail; non-Keplerian radiation-levitated orbit; spacefaring civilization; killer app

No study of coping with climate change is complete without considering geoengineering. A "Dyson Dot" is one or more large (area ~700 K km2, >200 megatonne) lightsail(s) in a radiation-levitated non-Keplerian orbit(s) just sunward of the Sun-Earth Lagrange-1 point. The purpose of this syncretic concept is twofold: (I) As a parasol, it would reduce insolation on Earth by at least one-quarter of a percent (-3.4 W m-2), same as what caused 1.5°C drop during the "Little Ice Age" (~1550-1850) and same as the IPCC Third Report's mid-range value for global warming by 2050. The parasol transforms the "solar constant" to a controlled solar variable. (II) Hosting a ~50K km2 photovoltaic power station on its sunny side and relaying beamed power via maser to rectennas on a circumpolar Dymaxion grid, the system could displace over 300 EJ/a (~100 trillion kWh/yr) of fossil-fired power (total global demand for electricity forecast by 2050), while providing USD trillions in revenue from cheap clean energy sales (@1-3¢/kWh) to amortize the scheme. Total system efficiency compares favorably to automobiles; total system power density is comparable to nuclear power. This approach -- self-funding, "pay-as-you-go", minimally intrusive, scalable, complementary with a portfolio of other measures and above all reversible is not precluded by international treaty. Indeed geoengineering may be the best "killer app" to bootstrap orbital industry and humanity ad astra, because the terawattscale product is comparable to the power required for interstellar travel. If Tellurian spacefaring civilization bootstraps its exponential growth with multi-terawatt maser beams from such lightsails, there might eventually be enough of them to have a detectable effect on Sol's apparent luminosity at certain wavelengths, as seen from far away, similar to the eponymous Dyson Sphere, hence the moniker.

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