Unlike a Terraforming Plant, built on the surface of a planet or a moon, a terraforming orbital station is built in space.
There are planets and moons like a Venus - Type Planet where the atmosphere is too corrosive for a large scale installation to survive. Also, in some cases, where diverting of comets is required to create atmosphere and oceans, the large scale impacts will destroy or at least damage many ground based buildings. A third category is made of ice-covered planets that will become oceanic worlds, where the ground will melt.
A terraforming orbital station will try to offer minimal service until ground conditions allow the construction of a ground terraforming plant.
Diverting comets and asteroids Edit
While we divert comets to create oceans and an atmosphere, the orbital station will be important. Comets will be diverted from the Kuiper Belt (or they will be small icy moons diverted from their initial orbits). In order to minimize the damage caused on the planet, these comets need to be first sent into orbit around the target planet, then they will spiral inward, to the orbit where atmospheric drag becomes significant. If the planet has no atmosphere, they will be de-orbited until impact becomes imminent. This way, the force of impact will be smaller and the resulting crater will not be so large. Also, a smaller impact means that all volatiles will be kept on the planet and will not escape into space during the impact.
An advanced civilization will build the orbital station to work as a large refinery, to send to the planet only the materials needed. Other materials, like salts, formaldehyde and toxins will be ejected into outer space.
In some cases, in order to ameliorate the chemical equilibrium on the planet, we will need to add some chemical elements. For example, if we discover a planet lacks magnesium in certain areas, we can divert an asteroid rich in magnesium. This can be done in a similar way.
For each diversion, the orbital terraforming plant will be crucial. All space vehicles needed for pushing and refining can be hosted and repaired by the plant. Also, the plant will store and provide fuel for all vehicles. Scientists and technicians will stay at the plant and guide the whole process.
Ameliorating temperature and atmosphere Edit
How could we cool a planet like Venus? One of the most feasible technologies is the use of Micro Helium Balloons. But, these balloons cannot be built on the surface. They could be built somewhere else, shipped to the orbital station and from there dropped into the atmosphere. Then, air currents will spread them over the entire planet. As the number of balloons increases, they reflect a significant part of solar radiation and the atmosphere cools. The process continues until temperature drops enough so that a ground terraforming plant can be built.
Other activities Edit
The terraforming orbital plant can be used in other ways:
- Shipment: Freight can be carried with large interplanetary ships, deployed here and sent to the planet with warm-class landing ships.
- Ameliorating the Geographical patterns: Bombs can be sent from orbit, to breach mountain ranges, to form valleys and straits.
- Inserting life: Seeds and microorganisms can be sent from space towards certain targets.
- Monitoring: The station will have instruments to monitor climate changes during terraforming process.
As long as activities on the planet are almost impossible, everything will be shipped to the plant from somewhere else. So, the plant must store all goods needed:
- For comet and asteroid diversion, the plant must have enough docks for all ships, repairing facilities and enough fuel storage capacity available. If possible, it should have a refinery too.
- To handle all freight traffic, the plant must be equipped with enough storage facilities. There must be rooms shielded from cosmic radiation, for certain materials. Other materials require cooling facilities and thermal insulation.
One can see that for these two tasks the plant should be large enough, probably a few km wide.
The plant will also be home for scientists and technicians. It will provide their food, their air and water, with the help of a closed ecosystem, as well as enough space for them to live.
Power should be generated by large solar panels, with a length of at least 10 km. Given the size of all ongoing operations, energy consumption will be significant.
The heart of the terraforming plant will be a supercomputer. This point is vital, because handling many objects in orbit is not easy. Comets and asteroids can lose mass, under the form of gas plumes, dust, rocks and boulders. The computer will calculate the ideal path for each object and will continuously monitor the terraforming processes. Also, it will handle the local ecosystem and station functions.
The best position for an orbital terraforming plant is at low altitude, where atmospheric drag becomes can remove small debris.
After terraforming Edit
Once terraforming is done, Space Stations are needed both for freight and passengers. Orbital terraforming plants can be redesigned for this task.