What happens when a space-faring civilization takes Space Stations to a whole new level? How about a space station around a star?
A stellar station is a type of space station that is placed in a very close orbit around its star, usually no more than several hundreds of kilometers/miles above the blazing plasma surface. Their purposes tend to vary depending on the faction who built them. They could be merely just scientific outposts that are placed there to study the star up close. They could be factories harvesting the star's material directly and using it to forge valuable resources through fusion synthesis. Or they could be a superweapon with the intent of blowing up the star and wiping out the system's civilization.
Whatever the case may be, such structures would have to be incredibly heat-resistant to stay operational and structurally-sound for long periods of time, as they tend to be located within the star's corona; its super-heated atmosphere where temperatures are millions of degrees hotter than its surface, enough to vaporize nearly anything. And, as Real Life has shown, extreme heat is not very kind to technology (there's a reason the Parker Solar Probe is equipped with a special heat shield that protects its vulnerable equipment from the full brunt of the Sun's heat). It'll sometimes be hand waved by the stations being Made of Indestructium or having a force field of some kind, but most of the time, no explanation other than Convection Schmonvection is given about the station's incredible durability.
Note that for an example to count, the station in question needs to be in a long-term orbit around its star and using it in some meaningful way. This can include spacecraft, satellites and probes to some degree, but if they're just simply passing by a star, either as a gravity assist, an attempt to shake off pursuing enemies, or to just hurl things into the stars, then they don't count.
Compare Dyson Sphere, a megastructure built around its star to harness its energy for an interplanetary civilization.
- Star Wars (Marvel 2015): Sunspot Prison is a space station meant to serve as a maximum security detention for the most dangerous and notorious Imperial prisoners captured by the Rebels. Its extreme proximity to its sun serves as a way to mask its presence, as a line of defence by limiting the directions outsiders can approach it from, and as an extra security measure for keeping prisoners in — damage to its infrastructure risks harming both the shields that keep out the intense heat and sunlight and the complex's ability not to fall into the star. When a rogue Rebel agent takes over the prison in order to slaughter the prisoners inside, he simply deactivates its shields and lets most of the inmates roast alive in their cells.
- In the Marvel Universe, Starcore One was a satellite placed in an orbit around the sun just outside the orbit of Mercury. It was eventually destroyed.
- Wolf 359: The entire premise of the series details the exploits of the Hephaestus crew who's station is orbiting closely around the titular star. The difficulties this causes is a recurring point throughout the series, with it being made clear on several occasions that a single thing going wrong (such as Hera being damaged) could cause them to fall into star. Not helped by the fact that Hephaestus is running with only three crew members and an AI (at the start at least) with limited supplies and only one engine.
- Numenera: The Engine of the Gods is a station just on the edge of the sun, meant to move the entire Solar System.
- Pathfinder: The Golarion setting's solar system has a few magically shielded outposts floating within the sun itself, such as the metropolis of the Burning Archipelago and the tower of a reclusive archmage who really doesn't want visitors.
- In Scum and Villainy, the dreadnought The Way of Light, which serves as the mobile HQ of The Church in the Procyon Sector, typically orbits extremely close to the star of whatever system she is currently in. This is facilitated by her extensive state-of-the-art heat and radiation shielding and serves both practical (the star's radiation makes it harder to detect the ship) and PR purposes (given how the Church of Stellar Flame's doctrine revolves around venerating light in general and starlight in particular).
- In Kerbal Space Program, it's possible to build such a space station in orbit around Kerbol (the game's analogue to the Sun), but doing so requires that your station design is sturdy and heat-resistant enough to not burn up that close to the star. Not to mention the immense difficulty of having enough Delta V to cancel out your momentum in order to get into a stable orbit in the first place. It's a high risk, high reward scenario where you get some very valuable science from studying Kerbol up close if you manage to pull it off successfully. See this video for a demonstration.
- Knights of the Old Republic: The Star Forge is a massive stellar factory built by the Rakatan Infinite Empire that harvests material from stars and forges it into weapons and ships using the Dark Side of the Force. It was apparently so powerful that it ended up corrupting all the Rakatans that used it, leading to their downfall. It was eventually destroyed in the Battle of Rakata Prime with the help of Revan.
- Outer Wilds has the Sun Station (pictured above) orbiting very close to the Sun, which can be accessed safely through one of the warp towers on Ash Twin. It was built by the Nomai long ago for the sole purpose of blowing up the Sun in order to provide the Ash Twin Project with enough power to trigger the time loops, thus increasing their chances of finding the Eye of the Universe. Not all Nomai supported its construction, though, as some find it very unethical to destroy a whole solar system as a means to an end. It's later revealed on the Sun Station, however, that it actually failed to blow up the Sun as it didn't have enough power. The Sun currently going supernova is the result of it reaching the end of its natural lifespan due to the universe dying.
- In Stellaris, since patch 2.0, controlling a star system requires building or capturing a starbase orbiting its primary star. Stars might also have resource deposits (usually energy) that can be collected by building mining stations on them. The Utopia DLC adds the ability to build a Dyson Sphere while Megacorp has the Matter Decompressor orbiting black holes.
- In Kurzgesagt's video about the Stellar Engine, they bring up the Caplan Thruster; a hypothetical megastructure that can directly harvest the Sun's material in order to create thrust and move the Sun. Charged plasma is fed into the thruster via the Sun's magnetic loops with the help of a Dyson Swarm, where inside the engine, hydrogen and helium is fused to create two opposing jets. The outer jet simply acts as the main drive of propulsion, while the inner jet acts as a stabilizer to push the Sun itself and to prevent the thruster from crashing into it. With the Caplan Thruster, it's possible to alter the Sun's orbit (and by extension, the whole Solar System) around the Milky Way Galaxy.
- Orion's Arm: Many solar systems contain artificial satellites, whether isolated or in groups, that orbit very close to their parent stars. These are almost always either energy collectors meant to gather solar energy and beam it elsewhere, highly specialized mining vessels that gather raw matter from stars, or "living space" for virtual beings who have little interest in their hardware's physical environment but who greatly benefit from the star's immense energy output.
- The Futurama episode "The Inhuman Torch" features a mining station orbiting the sun, with a tunnel leading to the surface for mining helium.
- The aforementioned Parker Solar Probe is the closest humanity has ever put a spacecraft near The Sun. It's specifically designed to get up close and personal with our life-giving star, taking direct measurements of its magnetic field, its solar wind and its corona, and one of its main science goals is to figure out the main driving force behind the corona's incredibly hot temperatures that surpass even the surface. To protect its instruments, the probe is equipped with a heat shield made out of a reinforced carbon-carbon composite that can withstand temperatures of over 1,000° C. After making several flybys of Venus to cancel out Earth's momentum, it's expected to come within 0.04 AU of the Sun's surface in 2025, which is close enough to skim the Sun's corona at its very edge. While there have been spacecraft that studied the Sun before and since (like the Helios probes, Ulysses and ESA's Solar Orbiter), none of them had or ever will come as close as the Parker Solar Probe.