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Since they are related ideas (many times an orbital ring depends on a space elevator, though not always a space elevator has an orbital ring, neither always an orbital ring has a space elevator , apparently) and since we have one of those questions here, Which was the first story to feature space elevators I guess we should have the other. Even when an orbital ring depends many times on a space elevator, apparently they were theorized 25 years before space elevators (Nikola Tesla would have theorized an orbital ring in 1870 and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky would have theorized a space elevator in 1895)

Several sci-fi animes and sci-fi movies feature an orbital ring. Some of them are, Starship Troopers (1997) , Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (2008) and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 TV series) . But almost for sure none of them was the first one. Which was the first sci fi story to feature orbital rings?

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    The answer is possibly the same as the that of the space elevator question, since Clarke's "Fountains of Paradise" (1979) ends with the space elevator being connected to what is effectively an orbital ring. – Nathan Griffiths Feb 20 at 19:43
  • @NathanGriffiths, Nivens Ringworld was 9 years earlier. I guess there's an open question if we're looking for a ring around a planet or a ring around a star. – The Photon Feb 21 at 17:50
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Arthur C. Clarke but the idea was older.

Here's a quote from the Wikipedia page.

In the 1870s Nikola Tesla, while recovering from malaria, conceived a number of inventions including a ring around the equator, although he did not include detailed calculations. As recounted in his autobiography My Inventions (1919):

Another one of my projects was to construct a ring around the equator which would, of course, float freely and could be arrested in its spinning motion by reactionary forces, thus enabling travel at a rate of about one thousand miles an hour, impracticable by rail. The reader will smile. The plan was difficult of execution, I will admit, but not nearly so bad as that of a well-known New York professor, who wanted to pump the air from the torrid to the temperate zones, entirely forgetful of the fact that the Lord had provided a gigantic machine for this very purpose.[1]

Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Fountains of Paradise (1979) is about space elevators, but an appendix mentions the idea of launching objects off the Earth using a structure based on mass drivers. The idea apparently did not work, but this inspired further research.

Paul Birch published a series of three articles in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society in 1982.[2][3][4] Anatoly E. Yunitskiy, author of string transport idea, also published a similar idea in USSR in 1982[5] and later explored it in detail in his book published in 1995.[6]

Andrew Meulenberg and his students, from 2008 to 2011, presented and published a number of papers based on types and applications of low-Earth-orbital rings as man's "stepping-stones-to-space". An overview [7] mentions four applications of orbital rings.
- Orbital ring - Wikipedia

So, the idea was a fantasy back before Arthur C. Clarke but he was the first to use it in a story.

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    The (probably too obvious) Ringworld by Niven was 9 years before Fountains of Paradise. – The Photon Feb 21 at 17:49
  • @ThePhoton post it as an answer – Pablo Feb 21 at 18:57

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