Space

Hightower 1

spaceflight has advanced considerably since the beginning of the century. National governments are able to participate to a certain extent, but huge levels of debt and economic stagnation have left the bulk of the effort to private enterprises and wealthy individuals. Low cost single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft using new materials have meant lower operating costs and higher payloads, finally opening up the “final frontier” to exploitation.

Space station 1

Orbit nowadays is a very crowded place, relatively speaking. Communications and AI-controlled spy satellites jostle with commercial and governmental space stations, leavened with weapons platforms seeeking to protect each interested party’s assets. Space junk is rife, and powerful lasers as well as huge aerogel nets are employed to sweep the vaccuum. In general, the increasingly complex and chaotic network of spacecraft now in place has necessitated the use of strong AI to coordinate operations. Many jobs previously filled by humans have now been given over exclusively to robots and computer programs. Spaceships are almost never piloted by human hands, with everything from docking to refueling to landing completely automated. Naturally, many passengers view this level of AI control with trepidation, cultural fears still being a part of space travel.

Moon base alpha

There are several permanent settlements on the Moon, and not a few temporary ones associated with mining ventures. The largest is Moonbase Alpha, population 300, a US-built base located in the Moon crater Plato which includes a mass-driver for sending raw materials out into space from the base, to resupply the constellation of stations and habitats.

Moon mining has fallen off some since the capture of the mile wide asteroid 1997 XF 11 in 2028. The asteroid is the property of a consortium of sovereign corporations headed by H.U.B. and is kept in a stable orbit at L3. It is visible from planetside on a clear night with binoculars. Asteroid mining has proven to be one of the great confirmations of people’s hopes for outer space. This single rock may yield more platinum group metals than has ever been mined on Earth, and more fuel than has been used in every rocket launch in history.

The jewel of near space remains Hightower, however, the massive 1,000 yard long O’Neill cylinder habitat completed in 2037. Its position at the top of the near-space gravity well, the might of the sovereign H.U.B. Corporation and its own powerful defenses ensure it will stay the pinnacle of the power pyramid for decades to come.

H.U.B. has also been instrumental in establishing the new preliminary mannded base on Mars, which will explore ways to extend human colonization to the Red Planet.

Finally, farther away from Earth, numerous robotic probes, each equipped with their own AI, are exploring the planets, moons and asteroids of the outer solar system. These are yielding unprecedented amounts of empirical data about the nature of these bodies and the early history of the solar system. After the SS Ad Astra disaster of 2038, most investors are rightly cautious about manned spaceflight out into the depths however. Still, there are plans for large manned mining vessels.

Asteroid mine


Space

Edgerunners Langy Langy