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I read this perhaps 20 years ago and the book seemed fairly old at the time. The basic premise was of some sort of launching grid(?) that was used to lift and land ships from space; the first thing done when developing any planet was to land a crew and materials with a (relatively expensive) rocketship and construct one that would take over landing duties from there.

The book had several puzzle-type stories in it. I think the protagonist was a petty beaurocrat who discovered he had a knack for solving problems. In the first story, a launching grid was being constructed on a new planet but the area was being choked by sand every night, which had stopped construction. In the last story, a star with 2 inhabited planets was entering a long-term(?) reduction in its activity, and the protagonist was put in charge of the colder planet in the hopes of finding a solution before both planets froze. One of the failed things he tried involved suspending the cables of a large launching grid by helicopters. The story ends with the comment that the solution he found would allow many more marginal worlds to be colonised.

The two stories are eventually solved by

In the first, he puts a much smaller launching grid inside the partially built big one to remove the sand. In the last, they launch some kind of flare(?) of volatilised metal into space to intercept more sunlight.

Thanks in advance for any identification attempts.

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The "landing grid" is a feature of several Murray Leinster stories. The one with a landing grid buried by sand was Sand Doom. The frozen planet doesn't sound familiar, but Leinster's Wikipedia article lists some story collections that include Sand Doom. Maybe you read one of those.

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  • Thank you; wikipedia tells me the second one is called "Critical Difference", later renamed to "Solar Constant". – TyphonV Oct 15 '13 at 3:50

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