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The sun gun or heliobeam is a theoretical orbital weapon, which makes use of a concave mirror mounted on a satellite, to concentrate sunlight onto a small area at the Earth's surface, destroying targets or killing through heat.
In 1929, the German physicist Hermann Oberth developed plans for a space station from which a 100-metre-wide concave mirror could be used to reflect sunlight onto a concentrated point on the earth.
Later during World War II, a group of German scientists at the German Army Artillery proving grounds at Hillersleben began to expand on Oberth's idea of creating a superweapon that could utilize the sun's energy. This so-called "sun gun" (Sonnengewehr) would be part of a space station 8,200 kilometres (5,100 mi) above Earth. The scientists calculated that a huge reflector, made of metallic sodium and with an area of 9 square kilometres (900 ha; 3.5 sq mi), could produce enough focused heat to make an ocean boil or burn a city. After being questioned by officers of the United States, the Germans claimed that the sun gun could be completed within 50 or 100 years.
With the deployment and validation of satellite mega-constellations, their use as a sun gun has also been proposed. Instead of a vast individual mirror, hundreds of low cost reflectors could in theory be synchronized to concentrate solar irradiance and aim it at a target.
Uses in popular culture
A similar concept is used in the Resident Evil: Revelations video game. In the game, a special satellite code-named Regia Solis is used to provide a city with clean energy but at full capacity it is powerful enough to destroy the city or other targets.
In the TV series Scorpion episode "Sun of a Gun", Walter O'Brien and his team are sent alongside their friend Sylvester Dodd's estranged father to an African dictator's country to investigate his discovery of a Nazi World War II sun gun project.
In the Star Wars Legends book Wedge's Gamble, Rogue Squadron commandeers an orbital solar reflector (used for power generation) is used to boil ocean water in an effort to generate a large enough storm to knock out power on the planet (Coruscant) below.
In the science fiction novel by René Barjavel The Ice People (French: la Nuit des temps) the doomsday device built by the gondas looks mostly inspired by the concept of the sun gun.
In Mobile Suit Gundam, similar weapons "Solar System" and "Solar Ray" are used in space battles.
In Grand Theft Auto Online, players can use an Orbital Cannon to kill other players.
- Archimedes heat ray, a purported device from antiquity which weaponized the sun's rays
- Concentrated solar power
- Space mirror
- Space-based solar power
- Solar furnace