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Cold War 2... in Space!
There year is 2042 and world politics have continued to evolve. The planet is now divided between two centers of power: an American-European-Japanese Western Alliance and a Sino-Russian-Indian Pan-Asian Alliance. Smaller independent power such as a (now unified) Korea, Israel and The Arab League still exist.
Both alliances present aspects of the new international transhumanist technointegration that embraces capital, cybernetics and genetic engineering. Paranoia that one alliance opf the other will steal a technological march has given birth to the New Cold War, with proxies fighting it out.
This age is brought forward by a massive shift towards nuclear energy. Thousands of new reactors are built, designed to burn fuel more efficiently, and to burn Thorium as well. Two International Forces that guarantee security and operations for the reactors. Nearly all reactors are operated by the military. Many reactors designs are used, and the cost of waste management motivates us to maximise use of the availaible fuel.
The discovery of a new chemical catalyst, and new electrode designs for the thermal-augmented electrolysis of hydrogen, allows for the large-scale production of hydrogen from nuclear reactors. This hydrogen is combined with carbon to produce hydrocarbon fuels. This carbon is provided by coal plants, and all coal plants are combined with a carbon recovery system that leads to hydrocarbon production.
Renewable ? energy comes to replace oil and gas as the primary forms of electricity, however this leads to the breakdown of the modern state of Yemen and Oman. The fallen land from the nations is taken in by Saudi Arabia.
However, this launches a new Space Race. As massive amounts of energy become availaible, fuel becomes cheap and space launches become common. Moon Bases are established, and so are space stations and spaceships. Designs are modular, with final assembly taking place in space. There are spaceyards for this purpose.
There are three major “space cities”: the Western Alliance's New Denver, the Eastern Alliance's Celestial Shanghai, and the demilitarized international Paxopolis. The population of space is growing, and space travel is heavily subsidised – it has become truly affordable, due to research in reusable vehicles, mass production and cheap fuel costs. Vehicles are present at all altitudes. There is beginning to be a minor amount of crime in space.
I could start from the present day and work towards the future. I am imagining the technology of tomorrow – why not? Robots and drones... This will change the face of Earth itself. However, I could try to see how it plays out in Space, first. The universe I am trying to create is very large. I will make it an evolving universe. The writings are not set in stone, they can evolve and be revised over time. Canon is subject to change, as predictions are better. History is then ret-conned.
There is a market for space retirement. The rich choose to live in space, coming down to earth frequently at first... But some lose the strength to live in Earth gravity, and are therefore bound to space. The elderly live longer at a reduced gravity; could be either the moon, or space stations. There are two moonstalks, and two major moon cities. The moon is accessible by moonstalk or by lander.
Each side defends their airspace against enemy military satellites. Both sides share strong network links, and commercial satellites are everywhere. Space is kept clean by laser brooms, satellites are repaired and upgraded in orbit, by maintenance drones. Material is recycled rather than de-orbited. Fuel tanks are designed to be recyclable as raw material.
Raw material is shot up by giant cannons that shoot payload vehicles with resilient cargo, and independent propulsion to achive orbit. Low orbital insertion means that tender vehicles already in space will tow the payload vehicles to the proper orbit. The Moon is mined for material as well, mostly for propellant. The nuclear reactors on the moon are used to produce hydrocarbon fuel and send it up the moonstalk.
Each side defends their lot of space around the Earth and the Moon. There are detection and defense networks that form frontiers. There are armed borders manned by attack drones and orbital defense platforms. But it is a Cold War, and there is no fighting, there is no death. Sometimes a rogue element will make an attack, and sometimes rogue countries show off. There is space combat by proxy. Very few people die; still, this Cold War is very expensive for all nations.
People of all nations do not all see themselves as part of a conflict. Many share a view that the militarization of space is a bad idea, and that the world should be united. They can communicate through the Internets.
Designing a military spaceship with near-future technology and nothing magical
Covered with arms, drone ports, umbrellas, scanners Gyroscopic hull with artificial gravity by rotation
Power: Powered by either an extremely more efficient nuclear reactor or an antimatter station which harnesess the energy released in an anihilation by forcing it to contact matter
Fuel: Nuclear or Antimatter
Propulsion: Nuclear (if the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 were revised), plasma boosters or ion jets
Missiles Attack Drones Gun Drones Mine Drone Missile Drone EM Drone Grapples
Battery powered Cold Gas Maneuvering
Sensory Drones Repair Drones Tendering Drones Attack Drones Communications Drones
External Drive Units High-Power Ion Drive (Tethered operations) High-Endurance Ion Drive (Long-range operations) High-Performance Short-Range Monopropellant High-Performance Medium-Range Bipropellant – Military Operations High-Performance Rocket Booster Deployer
Drone Operations Vehicles
Logistics / Tendering Vehicles
Supply Carriers (Flexible Configuration) Fuel Carriers (Flexible Configuration)
Base of operations
Multiple such spaceships
Who is the enemy, then?
Operations between Earth, the Moon, and Mars