In this universe, Nuclear Power rules the starlanes, and most of the technology is simply much more advanced versions of what we have and what is in development in today's world, albeit with some marked differences.
Engine Systems - Post WW2Edit
Nuclear Power, once touted as the power source that would take us to the stars, is alive and well in this Universe.
Understandably, of course, things are considerably more advanced and lighter weight than what exists in our world right now. In this Universe, the 'space-age' didn't fizzle out, rather it accelerated and along with it so did various technologies and it was mainly driven by an excitement in the Post WW2 world for 'Atomic Power'.
Things such as neutron-reflector based cerametal shielding and multi-layered doped-composites allowed for comprehensive radiation shielding, increased efficiency and much lighter weight. New materials allow for extremely high-pressure and high-temperature reactors thus allowing smaller reactors to outperform their earlier counterparts that were ten times the size and weight.
Needless to say, nations worked feverishly to outdo each other and everyone had their eyes on Space, because if Air power ruled the ground, then Space ruled the Air. Development raced ahead, and was heavily funded. There was no shortage of volunteers for the burgeoning space-race as it was 'The Ticket' to immense upward career mobility and fame. Yet, it did little to ease the overpopulation problem Earth was experiencing.
Engine Systems - The Space RaceEdit
Ion, Plasma, and Nuclear-Thermal engine systems were all tested, tried, adopted and utilized. As technology progressed, newer and better ways to accomplish motive power were developed...
Progress continued as things began to build towards a Crescendo between America, Russia, China, France, Japan as Humanity made use of the new technologies to first begin exploting the Near Earth asteroids, and begin exploiting the Asteroid Belt. Mars was now being seriously explored and the industry supporting such efforts continued to grow well even in the Post-Boom 1970's with surface exploration vehicles and spacesuits being widely advertised alongside cars, fashionable clothing, and the rest of society's trappings. Colonization efforts were planned out and begun, small outposts meant to prove Viability.
The Closing Years of The 20th CenturyEdit
The 1980's saw the arrival of reactors and engines compact, powerful and efficient enough to allow for rapid, common transit around the Near-Earth realms, including Mars. For the first time, one could work on a different planet than one lived on, albeit a work-period usually involved a 5 year tour.
Colonization of Luna continued rapidly as the new Industry in space opened up new and more opportunities for well-paying careers in all avenues, including basic labor. The announcement of a better understanding of Gravity and the scientific community's confidence that sooner rather than later Synthetic Gravity would be a reality (demonstrated with small-scale experiments that yielded very slight, but Definite proof of Generated Gravity) spurred a second 'Boom' in the maturing Space Race.
Incidents & WarEdit
The 1990's saw what would normally have been 'Routine Incidents' boil over into the First Sol War. What it lacked in length, it made up for in sheer intensity, and triggered an increased number of 'brushfire' conflicts and terrorism on Earth, Mars and across the Near Earth Realm for the remainder of the decade and into the New Millenium. Chief among these were conflicts based upon Religious and Environmentalist Extremism. This also marked the first conflicts fought outside Earth's atmosphere.
The Dawn of The Interstellar AgeEdit
With a single experimental probe, carrying a live passenger in the form of a Rat, Humanity had finally opened up the stars for itself.
A second 'Boom' happened in Aerospace and demand for Exploration and Survey vessels went through the roof. Cut-throat competition was avoided largely because demand was so great that every company was swamped just trying to meet the demand.
Probes were sent out in the dozens, then hundreds, the most promising probe surveys to be followed up by manned-missions.
The Nuts & Bolts--How Starships WorkEdit
Radiation and Impact ShieldingEdit
Starships must contend with many issues, any one of which could kill the crew. Radiation, the vacuum of space, micrometeorites and in many cases must also be able to manage re-entry and then lift off from a planet again.
In the beginning of the spaceflight era and the Moon Landings, vehicles were very lightweight, literally little more than flying beer cans, with minimal protection vs. radiation and collisions with micrometeorites and such.
Since then, things have changed a great deal. Hulls are built to handle the rigors of long-duration travel in space, meaning they're by-default armored to an extent that a 20th century tank matches and more. Radiation is handled by way of particle and waveform absorbent materials, and by staged-stopping-power. one layer would stop high-energy particles, creating X-rays, and then inner layers stop and damp those out, the layers are seperated by less than a mm, but the cumulative stopping power of multiple layers is able to damp out even the worst radiation of the strongest recorded solar flares. The same approach is taken regarding physical impacts, where the outermost layer turns the impactor into dust, and that is much easier to arrest by the inner layers.
Framing & StructureEdit
The spaceframe of any starship is built and reinforced to handle stressing in each of the 3 Axis (Roll, Pitch and Yaw) as well as linear accelerations in the lateral and vertical. In addition, they have to also cope with stress-loading regarding atmospheric flight and simply sitting stationary on a planetary surface in many instances, but by no means all.
Thus, starships are NOT 'delicate' in the overall, but some are relatively so. Such as Automated Freighters which use a carbon-based fibre tensile truss structures, like the ISV Venture Star seen here.
Spaceframes are commonly made of metal-doped carbon fibre based composites and related materials. metal is commonly used in many locations and for many reasons in a spaceframe as well. Various joining methods, including super adhesives and a Super-Duty version of velcro are used depending on the materials and include all forms of welding in addition to Gamma, X-ray, Sonic and Microwave welding processes.