Bernal sphere

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Shameless Copypasta from Wikipedia

A Bernal sphere is a type of space habitat intended as a long-term home for permanent residents, first proposed in 1929 by John Desmond Bernal.

Bernal's original proposal described a hollow spherical shell 1.6 km (1 mile) in diameter, with a target population of 20,000 to 30,000 people. The Bernal sphere would be filled with air.

Island One

In a series of studies held at Stanford University in 1975 and 1976 with the purpose of speculating on designs for future space colonies, Gerard Kitchen O'Neill proposed Island One, a modified Bernal sphere with a diameter of only 500 m rotating at 1.9 RPM to produce a full Earth artificial gravity at the sphere's equator. The result would be an interior landscape that would resemble a large valley running all the way around the equator of the sphere. Island One would be capable of providing living and recreation space for a population of approximately ten thousand people, with a Crystal Palace-style habitat used for agriculture. Sunlight was to be provided to the interior of the sphere using external mirrors to direct it in through large windows near the poles. The form of a sphere was chosen for its optimum ability to contain air pressure and its optimum mass-efficiency at providing radiation shielding.

Island Two

A Bernal sphere
O'Neill envisioned the next generation of space habitat as a larger version of Island One. Island Two would be approximately 1800 meters in diameter, yielding an equatorial circumference of nearly six and a half kilometers (four miles). At this size, the habitat could comfortably house a population of some 140,000 people. The size was driven by economics: the habitat was to be small enough to allow for efficient transportation within the habitat and large enough to support an efficient industrial base.

Bernal Spheres in Fenspace

The Bernal sphere, as redesigned by the L5 Society, is on the verge of being possible with sufficient hardtech space industry in OTL[1]. With handwavium resources it should be a snap.

Well, mostly. The process takes a fair amount of time - between six to nine months with full automated construction, longer if you've got squishy humans in the process flow - and it's more expensive than the usual "cobble together whatever shit you've got lying about" construction process that characterized early Fenspace. Despite that, the process is sufficiently simple that it should appeal to a lot of groups. But there aren't many Bernal spheres in Fenspace.


Having a ball in space...
For the most part, it has to do with how Fen spread through the solar system. The nature of the Fen diaspora was such that the groups both large enough and organized enough to build a sphere habitat right off the bat had other fish to fry. As an example, the Senshi decided to head immediately to Venus and stake their claim instead of building Crystal Tokyo as a Bernal sphere. Likewise, the Trekkies had already built Starbase 1 and were focused on setting up the Utopia Planitia settlement.

This left the construction of Bernal spheres to those groups who were motivated but not very large and not very organized. As a result, there are very few Bernal spheres in Fenspace, most of them clustering at the Earth-Luna L5 point.

The Bernal sphere habitats in Fenspace as of January 1, 2016 are:

  • Island One, the most “classical” Bernal sphere.
  • Genaros Station, a cyberpunk habitat. This station is different from the classic Bernal design, with an extension through the center of the main hab sphere.
  • Central Station, a habitat put up by European and Australian fen.

Each one can hold a population between 10-25,000 in relative comfort.[2]

What does the future hold?

Assuming that the population of Fenspace continues to increase, eventually more Bernal spheres will be built, simply because they're simple to build using wavetech resources. With the addition of the Whole Fenspace Catalog to the mix, they'll be even easier to build.

However, even the more ambitious Island Two designs will not be that popular within the fen communities. At this stage in the game, the Fen have enough people living on planetary and lunar surfaces that nobody feels a strong need to build cities in space. Newbies are more likely to flood into Kandor City or Port Lowell than they are to go to Island One or Central.

Still, the desire to live completely in space is strong among many people, and it's easier to build a station in cislunar space and fly it to a distant star system than it is to colonize that star system from scratch. Thus, there will be more Bernal spheres.

To say nothing of O'Neill cylinders, but that's another story...


  1. That's “our timeline” or the “real, non-Fenspace world” for those not in the know.
  2. ”Relative” being the word, especially with Genaros.