International Journal of Astrobiology

Research Article

The Solar Wind Power Satellite as an alternative to a traditional Dyson Sphere and its implications for remote detection

Brooks L. Harropa1 and Dirk Schulze-Makucha2

a1 Department of Physics and Astronomy, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA e-mail:

a2 School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA


The search for Dyson Spheres has been propelled not only by the hope of discovering intelligent alien life, but by humanity's ever-increasing need for energy. However, the Dyson Sphere is not a practical design, requiring too much matter to build and too much energy to stabilize. Here we discuss the various designs of a Dyson Sphere and propose the Solar Wind Power (SWP) Satellite, a simplistic, self-sustaining system that draws power from the solar wind and uses a laser to fire energy to collectors (on space stations, bases, etc.) positioned anywhere in the Solar System. While a small SWP Satellite can provide an estimated 2 MW of power, larger (or networks of) satellites could provide terawatts of power or more. The cost of the SWP Satellite would be relatively cheap – it primarily consists of shaped copper, with only a few complex systems onboard. Detection of such a satellite would be difficult using current technology, because at this time we can only detect solar wind deviations of up to 10−13 MS yr−1, while a 2 MW satellite would only divert 10−34 MS yr−1. Thus, only very large SWP Satellites could possibly be detected.

(Received December 17 2009)

(Accepted February 11 2010)