Polaris Station – Novelette Part 9


(Continued from Part 8)

“That’s not gonna’ happen,” Kendall insisted. “I haven’t had an asymmetrical collapse in all my years of para-gliding, and I’m sure not going to have one now.”

“Kendall?”

Kendall heard a sniffle. “Yes, Katya.”

“I can see you,” Katya said slowly and quietly, “I can see the station, through the top window of the elevator. The station is so small. I’m worried.

“Captain Parker,” Flight said. “Twelve minutes until impact. How much time will it take you and A4 to get to the reserves; to the emergency escape pods?”

“Look,” Kendall continued. “We’ve got the satellites re-distributing, now we just have to do something with M-479. Flight, what are all our options? Let’s get the smart people talking.”

“Okay Kendall,” Flight said. “We’ve been working on it. Houston has the following options so far.”

“Option One. Re-align M-479 back inline with the M-Sats.”

“Option Two. Re-align the stream of satellites downward in line with 479.”

“Is that realistic?” Kendall said.

“Option Three. Move M-479 laterally out of orbital plane so it passes harmlessly by the station.”

“Option Four. Move the satellite stream and the station out of plane so M-479 still passes harmlessly by the station.”

Five seconds passed.

“Is that all you’ve got?” Kendall said.

“Okay, Option Five. Destroy M-479.”

“How do we do that?”

“We can use the Station’s shape-able parabolic reflector to track and concentrate the sun’s energy on 479. The intense heating will cause the pressure vessel to explode.”

Silence for ten seconds.

“Well,” Kendall said. “There’s no way to move M-479 so options one and three are out and I’m not going to be a sitting duck for option five’s shotgun approach; one rogue bullet is better than a million pieces of shrapnel. The odd numbers are out and with station thrusters off line, option four is out. So it’s up to option two? How much time is needed to move the constellation and the station downward enough to align with 479?”

“We can’t move the station,” Dmitry called out. “At least not very fast. The axial and station keeping thrusters are still in calibration. If we lower too fast, the station might oscillate and cause a satellite maglev crash.”

“But what if we move slowly?” Kendall said. “Lower the station by lowering the constellation slowly.”

“Dad, do you think it will be in time?”

“We’re out of options, son. Make your calculations.”

“Okay,” Dmitry said. “But, it will require closed-loop control of the entire M-Sat constellation with feedback from all station and wing rail sensors. The bandwidth will be critical.“

“Okay, everyone,” Captain Parker commanded. “Option two it is. Flight, do you concur? How much time do we have left?”

“8 minutes, 30 seconds to collision.”

“Katya, are you getting telescope images yet? Can you lock on to the rogue trajectory?”

“Affirmative, M-479 clearly coming in low, but still within the orbital plane.”

“How could it still be in the orbital plane?” Kendall said.

“I don’t think this was caused by debris,” Katya said. “It would require an exact vertical impact.”

“If we can’t bump the sat, what about the M-Sat tethers?” Becca said. “Can M-478 and M-480, now that they are closer to M-479, launch their auxiliary tethers, lock onto M-479 from both sides and reel her in line?”

“Keep talking, Becca,” Becca’s father insisted.

“Affirmative,” Flight broke in. “Great idea Becca, but all we need is a nudge. We grapple M-479 with 478 and 480, then using M-Sat thrusters we play tug-a-war, to get M-479 moving outward till she’s in line with the others…”

“Negative,” Dmitry interrupted while preparing his M-Sat maneuver calculations. “Once you get M-479 moving outward, release the grapples and let her continue to move outward, moving higher than the M-Sat constellation and fly right by Polaris Station above, not below the wing.”

Again there was silence for a few seconds.

“Let’s do it, Houston,” Kendall ordered. “Execute the Becca/Dmitry maneuver now.”

“Sir,” A4 spoke up as he and Kendall continued descending down cord sixteen to the station’s main platform.

“Yes, A4?”

“There is a problem with this plan?”

“Do you have a better way to keep this thing from killing us?”

“No sir, but…”

(Continued at Part 10)

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Polaris Station – Novelette Part 8


(Continued from Part 7)

“Houston to Captain Parker, Emergency. I repeat, Houston to Polaris Station, we have an emergency.”

Kendall looked up at A4 who stopped the recording. “We copy, Flight. Give us the scoop.”

“M-479 has been compromised. I repeat, M-479 is off course, tumbling, and not responding. Coming in low on a collision course for the tail end of the wing. The anomaly occurred as predicted at perigee. Projected to intercept Polaris in 23 minutes, make that 22 minutes, 35 seconds.”

“What was the cause?” Kendall and A4 discontinued their inspections and headed down the cable toward the station. “Is it Space Grapple, that tractor beam sub? Have we had problems with M-479 before?”

“First time for 479, unknown cause,” flight said. “Could be space debris.”

Kendall and Flight were interrupted by a female voice. “Houston, this is Science Officer Katya, and Polaris crew monitoring transmissions from elevator dock. What assistance can we provide?”

“Officer Parker,” Houston said sternly. “Abort docking. Repeat, abort elevator dock.”

“Ne-yet. It’s too late,” Katya replied. “Crew transfer is complete. What is the full situation?”

“The station is in danger. You must abort and return to Plesetsk, immediately. If the station is compromised, the docking area will be showered by debris.”

“What do you mean showered by debris? My husband is up there. Kendall is not debris.”

“Katya. This is Kendall. You’d better re-board the quad and back off from the station footprint till we get this resolved.”

“Ne-yet. The quad is in autopilot for departure for Plesetsk, and we are ascending the space elevator.”

“Flight,” Katya said. “Has Houston obtained secondary confirmation of M-479 position? What supplemental indications do you have?

“Katya,” Kendall urged. “At least return to the bottom elevator dock, cancel Quad departure and be ready for emergency evac. Please, I don’t want to…“

Kendall was very familiar with the space elevator. He imagined his colleague, his co-captain, his wife, holding tight to an elevator support handle at the control console. Katya stood five foot eight inches tall. Looking down from the station cabling, Kendall knew she would be looking up through the overhead windows along the elevator cable which reached skyward and ended at a faint tiny gray spot directly above. He imagined her brown eyes and long lashes reflected back at herself in the window. She would be able to see a straight line of glowing dots rapidly approaching and departing the spot in the sky, the station.

“Okay,” Katya said, “we’ll return to the docking level and monitor from the Quad. I repeat, what are the supporting M-Sat indications?”

Houston replied. “Position verified by polar ground radar and GPS, substantiated by triangulation from adjacent M-sats.”

Kendall thought of his daughter Becca who would have just gotten strapped into her elevator chair and would be listening intently as they prepared to return to the transport. An accomplished physicist in college, she could speak the language of math and science along with the best. She majored in earth sciences with a minor in engineering dynamics and also hoped to further mankind’s knowledge and appreciation for all forms of life on Earth through advanced space observation. She was also the family pool champion in one ‘g’ and hoped to develop new techniques in point-eight ‘g’.

“Use M-480,” Becca blurted out for all to hear.

“What,” Katya said.

“M-480 can lag and bump M-479,” Becca said.

Katya’s response to Becca was barely audible on the radio. “They won’t compromise a second satellite.”

“Just tell them,” Becca insisted.

“We heard that. Are you kidding?” Flight exclaimed. “M-Sat physical contact at that speed? We’d likely have two M-Sats off course with a…”

“I know, I know,” Katya yelled. “Sorry Becca.”

“Flight, back off,” Kendall said.

Flight continued, “Katya, with two satellites out of position, there is potential loss of sufficient momentum to maintain station lift. If we lost one more adjacent satellite, we’ll plunge the station to Earth and put a hole in the ice cap.”

“Flight, this is Kendall.”

“Go ahead, Kendall.”

“Suggest Houston immediately re-distribute neighboring satellites M-470  through M-490 along orbital trajectory to account for the impulse loss of M-479.”

The radio was silent for 10 seconds.

“Flight, I repeat…”

“Wait, Kendall,” Katya interrupted. “Give them a few more seconds. Is my primary telescope operational? Is it controllable by remote?”

“Yes,” Kendall responded. “It is operational. We performed final optical checks and calibrations yesterday. Why?”

“Houston,” Katya said. “I suggest another view of M-479 status and trajectory using station primary telescope. You can control the scope from there, or we can from the space elevator. If she’s over the horizon, it will give us a better assessment of the rogue condition.”

“Good idea, Mrs. Parker, our astronomy and surveillance teams are on it.” Flight continued. “Captain Parker, M-470 through M-490 are in delta-V correction, adjusting orbital separation slowly to account for momentum loss of M-479. Katya, have Dmitry do a quick telescope transfer calculation for simultaneous three axis pedestal movement and download it to Houston?”

“I’m on it,” Dmitry said over the radio.

“Don’t forget the sun avoidance zone,” Katya said. “Don’t fry my optics.”

Kendall knew this would insult their son.

“Confirming status on my portable holographic lap top,” Dmitry said. “I’m now manipulating the orbiting imagery the fastest way I know how, with hand and finger gestures. Now solving the state vector equations for synchronized movement between the telescope axes and the trajectory of the satellite.”

“Houston,” Dmitry said. “M-479 will be over the horizon in line-of-sight of Polaris Telescope in less than a minute. I’m transferring telescope movement parameters on the station science channel for you to verify then issue second vote authorization to the station.”

“Roger that, Dmitry.”

Kendall paused his cable descent, looked down from the nanotube to the platform and after several seconds saw the telescope turning toward the horizon. He looked out at the horizon where the pearls of mass were lined up on approach like night time plane traffic landing at a major airport.

Flight continued, “Kendall, Katya, re-distribution will not be 100% complete upon arrival at Polaris Station, but should be enough to minimize loss of station lift. Kendall, be advised, M-479 will arrive in 18 minutes, 25 seconds. Still traversing low. By our calculations it looks to impact the final 100 meters of the wing rails.”

“Do you have rogue acquisition,” Katya said. “From the telescope?”

“Stand by; coming on line now,” Flight reported. “We will relay the telescope image to your wrist monitor.”

“Enabling monitor now,” Katya said.

Katya?” Flight said.

“Da, Yes, Flight.”

“Check your elevator console. What is the status of the emergency heat shield and parachute?”

“Dmitry already examined lift indications,” Katya said.

“All nominal, sir,” Dmitry said, “and ready if necessary.”

“Good eye, Dmitry,” came the voice on the radio. “Even so, Houston advises you transfer to the Quad now.”

“And Kendall?” Flight said. “What is your position?”

Kendall looked at A4.

“We are half way back down to the platform.”

“Captain Parker,” Flight continued. “If that satellite takes out the last 100 meters of the wing, the likelihood of maintaining stability is…”

“The probability of total system failure is 99.98 percent,” A4 interrupted.

(Continue at Part 9)

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Polaris Station – Novelette Part 7


(Continued from Part 6)

Kendall and A4 discontinued their inspections and looked up at the momentum stream. “Go ahead, Flight.”

“It occurs at approximately 12 hour intervals over the equator. The last several events were initiated roughly along 120 degrees west longitude.”

“That’s odd, why does that number sound familiar? That’s Santa Barbara isn’t it? Not a bad place to surf!”

“You say it’s always at perigee, at the closest approach to Earth?”

“Ah,…that’s correct, Captain Parker.”

“And why are we feeling it here at the pole?”

“Not sure yet. Either the perturbation propagates through the string from M-Sat to M-Sat…”

“Like whipping a taught rope,” Kendall inserted, “creating a wave moving along the rope that gets smaller as it moves along.”

“Right,” Flight continued, “If the whip were to happen close to one of the stations…“

There was silence for a few seconds.

“Flight, when was the last occurrence?”

“Eleven and a half hours ago. If the next one occurs at the next multiple of 12, ‘Old Faithful’ will erupt in 30 minutes, zero point five hours, when the momentum stream passes over 120 degrees west again.”

Captain Parker thought for a moment, then a memory took his breath away, 120 degrees west, perigee, the equator, the ocean, the Pacific Ocean? SEPA? He then voiced, Flight, what do we know about Space Grapple? Any truth to the classified rumor that the space clean-up tractor beam submarine was commandeered? What about those SEPA extremists that NSA has been tracking? Could they be at the center of this?

“Kendall, you focus on your inspections, and we’ll work on the speculation. Check that. We’ll continue the analysis.”

“Okay, but keep on it. You guys are making me nervous. And this morning I got a strange message on my private comm station. We all know that some of those Space Environmental Protection Agency fanatics had ideas beyond the removal of space debris.”

Flight interrupted. “If it weren’t for DARPA’s Space Grapple program, we wouldn’t have had any chance of selling the M-Sats; too much space debris to operate in.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“We’ll include your theory in our investigation,” Flight said.

“Well, anyway, what’s the ETA of my team? When do you expect elevator dock? There’s only one thing that could make this experience more phenomenal. Sharing it with my…”

“Copy that. The rest of the Parker family left the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 1700 hours and will dock with the elevator at approximately 1830 hours. Unless…”

Kendall looked at his space watch and whispered, “Fifteen minutes. Then it will take them three hours to ascend the elevator.”

“Flight, what did you mean, Unless? Unless what?”

“Unless this anomaly continues. Then…”

“Then what?” he insisted agitatedly.

“If we can’t get an explanation for the anomaly, we may have to delay deployment of the rest of the crew. We can’t afford unnecessary…”

“Negative Flight. This two-year mission was designed for four, not one. A4’s good company, but… Anyway, Let’s get the crew up here. I suggest you pull rank, brush up on your Russian, get all those twenty-second century surveillance satellites, pointed at the Pacific, get the best analytics teams working the problem, and get it solved in the next few hours.”

“Captain Parker, out.” He tried to wipe the sweat from his forehead but his glove hit the helmet glass. “A4, resume briefing playback.”

“I am the correspondent for the Global Times. Can you give us a summary of the stations basic data, such as size, shape, and weight?”

“Tricky A4,” Kendall said. “You didn’t pause during Houston’s interruption.”

“Sorry sir. I was analyzing our situation.”

“Very smooth.”

The NASA director continued by describing the stations size, construction, its weight on Earth, and its reduced weight at altitude. He went on to liken the wing to the upper portion of a roller coaster loop where the momentum of the coaster applies an upward force to the rails as they pass top-dead-center. He responded to reporter questions like, “How fast is each M-Sat moving? Will the Parkers at the north station, or Callahan’s at the south station receive any visitors? And then that persistent reporter from the Globe, “Is it true that Becca Parker and Gregory Callahan fell in love during training at NASA?”

Kendall’s mind drifted to his family. Kendall and Katya met their first year in graduate school at the university in Moscow. Although not in the same department, he found his way regularly into her holographic astronomy demonstrations, and was usually the last one to leave. Adventurous and a bit rogue from some of life’s rules, he grew up examining everything he touched. He barely made it into undergraduate work, but once there, he figured out how it all worked, got acceptable grades and went on to graduate school, the top for mechanical engineering.

“Houston to Captain Parker, Emergency. I repeat, Houston to Polaris Station, we have an emergency.”

(Continue at Part 8)

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Polaris Station – Novelette Part 6 with Illustration


(Continued from Part 5)

EarthWithPolarisStation

(Figure – This is a collage of several vantage points in the story. In the background is the Earth at night with lights of North America showing. In the lower right is the Earth with two elliptical orbits overlaid about the Earth showing the path of the momentum satellites, diverted by the two polar space stations so that the satellites never experience the outer portion of their respective orbits. In the center left, Polaris Station hanging from tethers supported by the mag-lev rails uplifted by the momentum satellite stream. There is a space elevator hanging from the bottom of the station.)

Kendall took a few more ascent strokes then paused and stared instinctively back downward from the cable towards the station, now framed by the Earth below. He could see all of Canada, but only part of the United States. Texas was just over the horizon. “I read you, Houston. Go ahead.”

“Kendall, I see A4 beat you out of bed again.”

“Uh, copy that.” Kendall said. “I’ll see if Dmitry can make A4’s daily regenerative cycles more like teen-age sleeping patterns. That ought to slow him down. You would think that getting out of bed at a point-eight (0.8) ‘g’ should be a piece of cake, but for some reason…” Kendall lost his train of thought. “Anyway, what’s the word on these M-Sat anomalies? We had another bump this morning.”

“Yes, we saw it on telemetry,” Flight replied. “Our best analysts are working on the sensor and tracking data. We’ll keep you posted.”

“Ya,” Kendall said below his breath. “Roger that. Don’t forget to keep Becca in the loop.”

“What?” Flight said. “Don’t you trust the ground team? Don’t worry, we’ll keep her informed. Katya, Becca, and Dmitry just passed through the solar blackout zone in the Quad so we lost communication a few minutes ago. We’ll get her caught up shortly.”

“Roger that, Houston.” Kendall looked back up the cable toward A4.

“You did not need to come,” A4 said to Kendall. “As you know I am fully capable of performing the inspection. You could have attended to telescope calibrations. Your son programmed me to…”

“I know A4,” Kendall interrupted. “But I feel the need to make sure everything…” He stopped, then continued.” To make sure I understand the condition of everything about this outpost in case…” He paused again.

“You were saying, sir?” A4 prodded. “In case what?”

Kendall thought about Dmitry as he looked up along the nanotube approaching A4 and the wing rails above. He did a great job on A4. If only he would take his professors more seriously, his grades wouldn’t be an international controversy, like mine were. He spends way too much time playing that video game, Knights of the Middle Ages.

“You were saying, Captain Parker?” A4 repeated.

“Listen A4, we’ve got another 45 minutes on this cable. How about my favorite audio?”

“You mean the sound track from 2001, Space Odyssey?

“No, I’d like to hear the NASA press briefing given before we launched. Please play back from the beginning.”

“But sir, I played that for you three days ago.”

“Just do it.”

Yes, sir.” A4 accessed the file remotely from the station then transferred playback to Kendall’s helmet.

While the briefing played, Kendall remembered the space environmentalists, the hecklers in the background the day of the briefing. He stopped his ascent, braced himself against the cable and looked up at the long narrow maglev wing above, the edge near the center reflected the brilliance of the sun. The wing curvature was hardly detectable especially from below but he could see the two slightly blurred parallel maglev rails extending across the bottom from end to end, five-hundred meters in length of arc. Over the entire curve, the rails were supported by a bridge structure, longitudinal members connected by triangularly placed beams and tension rods. Streaking across the wing, each five-meter diameter bullet-shaped M-Sat was programmed to approach the wing inline with each neighboring M-Sat within two millimeters minimizing shock to the station during M-Sat arrival.

Each M-Sat levitated about 10 millimeters below the maglev rails traversing across the full 500 meter long wing in 132 milliseconds. Counter magnetic surfaces on each M-Sat interacted repulsively with the maglev rails providing lift to the station. At any given time, 4 of 175,955 satellites chased each other across the wing pushing it upward as the satellites turned slightly downward. They made no sound in the vacuum of space, but from Kendall’s position on the cable, he could feel the low 15 Hertz buzz caused by the M-Sat passing rate. During development and M-Sat launch and deployment, it was determined to include a grappling tether subsystem in each M-Sat to allow for minor corrections, mitigating the risk of drifting satellites in the event of a control system failure.

He then realized that the recording was still playing.

“I’d like to announce the two families that will occupy and operate the observatories for the next twenty-four months,” the NASA director said.

Kendall interrupted, “You should have been there, A4. The eight of us stood there in front of the press, and the world. The event was even broadcast to the outpost on the moon and Mars.”

The recording was interrupted.

“Captain Parker, this is Houston.”

“Come in, Flight,” Kendall said.

“Kendall, we have an update on that M-Sat anomaly.”

(Continue with Part 7)

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Polaris Station – Novelette Part 5


(Continued from Part 4)

Kendall finished his breakfast in the control room while checking status monitors for the 4.3 meter Hubble-7 telescope as well as the primary solar and the Arctic earth scanners. All nominal and ready for Earth and deep space exploration by Katya the astronomer and Becca the astro-dynamicist and Earth scientist. Since his arrival, he logged several needed software bugs to pass on to Dmitry, the station’s computer specialist as well as a number of telescope observations of interest for Katya and Becca. He also performed space elevator checks before donning his space suit for final cable inspections up on the wings with A4.

Kendall and two cubic meters of air exited pressure-lock three on the upper deck. Instinctively taking in the view, he had to remember to breathe. Walking slowly around the Hubble pedestal, leaning over the railing, he looked straight down. From an altitude of 619 km, he attempted to make sense of the Earth’s aurora, its slow cloud-like motions appearing and disappearing over the northern portions of Greenland.

Then, tinting his visor, he raised his head and looked straight out toward the sun, the very impetus of the northern lights, perceiving the almost infinite flow of radiation bombarding and passing mother Earth. He again stretched over the railing and looked directly down, his eyes followed the space elevator cable from the faded Arctic atmosphere below upward until it attached to the station. Like the string of a kite, the space elevator cable looked as though it would restrain the station from floating away. He then arched his back while holding the railing, looked straight upward and checked an even more phenomenal sight, the space wing with its parallel maglev rails, solar panels, and cables attaching it to the main station platform.

The continuous procession of heavy mass satellites, or M-Sats, moving at orbital speeds, passed under the rails similar to the wind passing under a paraglider wing. The station wing was lifted by the stream by re-directing each satellite slightly downward thereby imparting vertical momentum to the station which hung by the sixteen cables, each about 500 meters long fanning upward from the station.

Kendall tried to see the North Star, but it was blocked by the wing’s structure above. He made his way over to one of the cables, buckled into an ascension device and began to climb the carbon fiber nanotube to help A4 in the inspection.

“Captain Parker?”

Kendall heard a familiar voice in his helmet radio. It was the Flight Director for NASA’s Momentum Class Satellites and Stations (M-Sat) program.

They’re a bit early this morning, Kendall thought.

(Continue at Part 6)

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Polaris Station – Reference Figure 1


Earth Night with Sun

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Polaris Station – Novelette Part 4


(Continued from Part 3)

Kendall discovered the message by accident when the station vibrated. Next to channel seven on the inertial display, the decryption read, “The gauntlet is thrown.”

“Who’s on my private frequency?” Kendall spoke to an empty control room while examining the space station accelerometer data. “And what’s causing these oscillations?”

A computerized voice came over the intercom. “Captain Parker?”

“Go ahead, A4.”

“Kendall, my sensors just picked up another vertical fluctuation in the station. Spectral analysis indicates that for a few seconds, the normal fifteen Hertz vibration was riding on a slower wave of larger amplitude.”

“Yes, I’m reading it too.” Kendall examined several indications on the monitor. “The amplitude was bigger than the last time.”

A4, the human shaped robot, or Autonomous Android Astronomy Assistant processed related data from various sensors throughout his trans-reflective silver, five-foot tall, space suit.

“Did you scan the satellites,” Kendall said, “when the anomaly happened?”

“Of course I did,” A4 said, “I feel insulted.”

“Insulted?” Kendall said, “I think Dmitry has your emotion setting too high.”

“Actually,” A4 continued. “I attempted to scan the satellites, but the movement damped-out before I could acquire sufficient samples. All I got was the low frequency wave.” A4 was quiet for a few seconds. “Captain Parker, did you modify protocols during my refresh period last night? I failed my self test this morning.”

“No,” Kendall said. “Is it possible your fuzzy logic created new inferences and failed to update the parameters?”

“That is not probable,” A4 said.

“Okay. Examine your log files with Dmitry when he gets here. Anyway, regarding our little station bump,” Kendall continued, “Could anything but the M-Sats cause the station to bounce like that?”

“Other causes would have been detected by primary and secondary sensors,” A4 dutifully reported. “These include, solar flare, nuclear blast, gravity pulse, tractor beam, meteoroid or debris impact, maglev calibrations, or explosion of one of the stations liquid propulsion tanks, and….”

“And what?”

“Snoring.”

Kendall didn’t respond so A4 continued his analysis.

“I’ve compared the wing and platform sensor data. Station accelerometer movement lagged the wing movement by 260 milliseconds. That’s how long it would take for the movement to propagate from the wing down to the stations main platform. It’s definitely originating from the wing, and likely from the M-Sats.”

“Roger that, A4. Keep analyzing what data we have. Kendall out.”

Captain Parker examined recorded data on the monitor, comparing the latest readings with prior flutters. After a few minutes, he relaxed, looked up from the monitors and through the tinted windows out at the sun. He thought for a moment and remembered how he had described this scene to his wife a few days earlier. He sat down at his control station, typed a few characters and retrieved a message from his Sent file.

The message read, It’s never really day, but it’s never really night. At no time does the sun rise, for ne’er does the sun set. A mere 150 million kilometers away, the sun just hovers there ejecting its never failing radiation in every direction flooding the solar system and half the Earth with the light of life.

“She loves it when I get poetic,” he thought.

Well above the atmosphere, for the next twenty-four months, 45 year-old Kendall Parker, with his family, would soon command Polaris Station, laying claim to the one and only residential address: zero degrees east, 90 degrees north, 619 km up, straight up, above the Arctic ocean, far above what little remained of the polar ice cap.

Minimizing risk to his family, Kendall was the sole human occupant preceding the arrival of his wife, science officer Katya Parker, and their two college children, Becca and Dmitry. Kendall and A4 arrived two months earlier to perform final functional checks and calibrations of the geo-polar-stationary space station.

Kendall Parker was honed physically. With sandy blonde short hair and blue eyes he was handsome and slender, physically and mentally active. Inside the station, when not performing rigorous duties, he preferred sandals, shorts, and a well-worn Beach Boys tee-shirt.

Being isolated on this station for two months, he thought, is like taking a business trip to Maui, alone. So much to see, so much to feel, so much to explore, and no one to share it with. Katya will be like a child in a candy store; the Milky Way unimaginably brilliant from the station’s dark side; the constellations almost undetectable against the backdrop of all the less brilliant stars and galaxies; and the sun, phenomenal through the spectral filters. Kendall adjusted a radiation sensor, checked the production rate on the CO2 scrubbers, then looked at his watch. I can’t wait ‘til the brightest family on, or off the planet sets foot on the ultimate observatory. And the experts said it couldn’t be done.

(Continue at Part 5)

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Polaris Station – Novelette Part 3


(Continued from Part 2)

Another person stood and commanded attention by his full gray suit and well groomed hair. “I have a question,” he said in a respectful tone.

“Yes, sir,” Kendall and Katya said in unison.

“Katya, I understand you have dedicated five years of grad school to this work. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“And Kendall, you are a graduate student in mechanical engineering?

“That’s right. Upon approval of this dissertation, we both graduate next month.”

The man continued. “I’m impressed with the work you have done. It shows scientific rigor and bold thinking. It has some technical and political challenges, but in my experience, this is the recipe for opportunity for those who stick with it, do the science, work the issues, and test their theories. I look forward to reading your paper. Congratulations.”

Someone in the audience clapped, then another, and then all stood and joined the applause.

Kendall noticed Katya smile. He stood closer and offered a congratulatory hug.

The audience filed from the room visiting about solar 3D imaging, the proposed army of satellites, and the two space outposts.

As the full suited man passed through the door, Kendall thought he saw a logo on his briefcase and said, “NASA?”

***

25 Years Later

Kendall discovered the message by accident when the station vibrated.

(Continue with Part 4)

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Polaris Station – Novelette Part 2


(Continued from Part 1) Katya’s eyes narrowed, her head tilted down. “As stated in the presentation, it would be a fraction of the cost of what we would lose in productivity due to a day’s loss of the internet.”

Kendall took a step forward and was about to say something he knew he’d regret when he was stopped by another voice.

“I agree,” a man in a wrinkled white shirt, tie-less on the back row called out. “As we hear in the news everyday, we need a way to remove thousands of pieces of space junk from orbit, not add thousands more. No pun intended but, have you considered the impact your system would have on orbital collisions?”

A few people in the audience laughed.

Kendall again stepped forward, this time stopped by Katya’s grip on his arm.

“We understand your concern.” Katya said. She paused, looked Kendall in the eye, took a deep breath, then pointed toward the microphone.

Kendall followed her prescription and breathed deeply. “International research,” Kendall said, “has shown promising methods to remove space debris. In the mean time, the scientific and ultimate human benefits of developing this new system would be worth the risk. Besides, we have the rockets left over from the cold war. We can launch a hundred satellites at a time. This would reduce the number of launches to approximately seventeen hundred and sixty.”

The man shook his head, and sat down.

“Orbital technology has been mature for six decades,” Kendall added. “We know how to do this.”

Katya ran her fingers through her hair from front to back.

Kendall felt the urge to say more, but before he could speak, a young girl, a teen, raised her hand.

Katya pointed in her direction.

“I don’t get it. Why do you need all those satellites? What are they doing exactly? Can’t you just put the station up in space. There are lots of geostationary satellites above the Earth.”

Katya looked at Kendall and nodded.

“Very good question, young lady.” Kendall said. “The only place around planet Earth where a satellite can remain over the same point on Earth while the Earth rotates, is above the equator, out at an altitude of 35,800 km. There are about 500 active and 1000 inactive satellites there now. Any other altitude and it would move faster or slower than the Earth; any other latitude and gravity would pull it back and forth across the equatorial plane.”

The young girl nodded.

Katya nudged Kendall aside at the podium. “To park a space station anywhere else above the planet, we need something to hold it up. Our station needs lift, like a hawk soaring stationary above a rising hillside, the upward wind steadily exchanging momentum with its wings. The satellites are like wind in space, bearing up the station like a hawk.”

“But why so many satellites?” someone asked.

“To smooth out the ride,” Kendall said.

The room was silent for a few seconds.

Someone back in the corner blurted out, “How will you exchange momentum between the ultra-high speed satellites and the station.”

“Magnetic levitation,” Kendall replied. “Each satellite will be magnetized. Rails on the station, like a roller coaster, will also be magnetized to repel the satellites. The station will be pushed upward, as each passing satellite is pushed slightly downward. You can think of it like tennis balls bouncing back and forth between two rackets. Each time the ball hits a racket, it pushes the racket outward as the ball rebounds back toward the other racket. Any energy lost will be re-supplied by solar panels on each satellite and small electric thrusters.”

Again, silence for a few seconds.

Another person stood and commanded attention by his full gray suit and well groomed hair. “I have a question,” he said in a respectful tone.

(Continue with Part 3)

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Polaris Station – Novelette Part 1


Kendall Parker retreated from the podium, conceding the remainder of the speech to his colleague at the 2027 International Space Environments Conference. He sat down, silent, probing each face in the audience, desperate to know their reaction, anxious for Katya to effectively reinforce their proposal, and secure the sponsorship for which they had worked five long years.

“Re-capping ladies and gentlemen,” Katya said, “our research conclusively shows that events like the five-day global internet failure of 2022, can be prevented by placing our system in space above the North and South Poles, bringing continuous 3D, multi-spectral imaging of the sun 24/7, 365 days a year.”

Kendall felt positive energy in the room. He sat tall in the wooden chair on the rostrum. You’re doing great Katya, he thought. Now drive it home.

All eyes raised from Katya to the large overhead monitor as compelling images of catastrophic events flickered including a plane crash, traffic jams, food lines, poverty, idle workers…

“Every day, every moment,” she said, “our lives are dependent on energy, communication, and internet systems. Air traffic collision avoidance, movement of global food supplies, all forms of navigation, national defense, education and entertainment, not to mention the wireless cloud many of you are using this very moment.”

Several people in the audience looked up from their hand-held devices.

“The global cost of productivity loss in the solar event of 2022 was estimated in the trillions.”

Then on the monitor, a nighttime image of the entire Earth appeared with the sun barely visible beyond. Distant stars on a black background framed the scene. Night-time lights of North America glowed in the upper left of the Earth’s sphere. The lights of Brazil were visible to the southeast. The image included two small space stations, one positioned directly above the Arctic, and the other directly opposite above the Antarctic, each just outside the atmosphere. A continuous series of dots, in a circle around the planet connected both stations. The dots moved slowly clock-wise from one station around to the other, and then back again.

“With these twin stations, we will see deep into the sun’s core. We will finally grasp the physics at work which give us life and at the same time threaten that life. We will characterize the radiation as it emanates from the sun, passes around the Earth, and propagates out into space, capturing its full effect. We will use this knowledge from space to re-engineer cyberspace on Earth, making it impenetrable by solar storms.”

“In conclusion, distinguished colleagues,” Katya looked from one end of the audience to the other, then pointed above her head, “as illustrated in this simulation, two polar geostationary observatories, supported by a continuous procession of a hundred thousand orbiting satellites, and equipped with the latest sensor technologies, will give us unprecedented awareness of our nearest star. In addition, deep space galactic telescopes will gather light from the most distant stars. These capabilities will enhance, and save our way of life. Thank you.”

The audience applauded.

Katya stepped back from the podium. Kendall rose quickly to stand next to his colleague.

“Excuse me.” A tall woman on the forth row stood. The clapping stopped. “We already understand that improved non-interrupted high-def sensing of sun activity can help to predict and characterize solar events that wreak havoc on the ozone and power grid, but seriously Mr. Parker, and Miss Smirnov, how will you raise the necessary funds? The cost of your system would single-handedly gridlock the world’s banks.” The woman sat back down and mumbled, “A hundred thousand satellites? You’ve got to be kidding.”

Katya’s eyes narrowed, her head tilted down.

(Continue at Part 2. Please share this post with your family, friends, and colleagues)

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