Orbital (habitat)
Bernal Sphere
Image from Steve Bowers
A Bernal Sphere, a common form of early orbital habitat

Generic term for medium-sized to very large self-contained space habitat or biosphere, usually in L4 or L5 (see Lagrange Points) position relative to a planet, moon, or double star, although conventional satellite orbits are sometimes used as well.

Orbitals come in a vast number of sizes, configurations, and environments, depending on the motivation, tech level, and resources available to their builders. Rotating rings (including Bishop Rings and Banks Orbitals) are preferred for the bigger, megascale orbitals (generally > 100km), rotating cylinders or spheroids (such as O'Neill, Bernal, and other configurations) are common for nearbaseline habitats of about 20 to 100 km long, and rotating toruses are used for smaller orbital (around 1 or 2 kilometers in diameter). Spheres and other forms, even irregular shapes, are also used, especially by microgravity clades. It is estimated that some 43% of non-virtual sophonts live on orbitals, with most of the remainder in other kinds of artificial habitats such as bubblehabs, worldhouses, dome habs, and so on.

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    Originally, a nation state or city state based on habitats in orbit around Old Earth. Over the course of the Interplanetary Age the term came to be used for any such state in Solsys. By early First Federation times the term Orbital was used more broadly for any independent or semi-independent state based on a hab in orbit around a planet.
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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Initially published on 17 December 2001.