Kissed by the Mistral winds, 2341

The RAIR ship Mistral Zero preparing to break orbit around Ceres.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎RAIR


‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎Ram-Augmented Interstellar Rocket, a highly-efficient interstellar fusion drive widely employed from the Early Interplanetary Age onward for colonisation, and for routine interstellar travel before the development of traversable wormholes.
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎This design, inspired by the physically-unworkable Bussard Ramjet, features a magnetic ramscoop which harvests ionised hydrogen from the interstellar medium to use as reaction mass. Though the ship still has to carry its own fuel, the ability to use the interstellar medium as propellant drastically improves the drive’s performance. Later designs boosted the temperature of the propellant with an onboard store of antimatter.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎Additionally, the ship’s magnetic ramscoop can be reconfigured into a magnetic ‘parachute’ — a drag sail which uses stellar wind to decelerate.‏

Following the horrors of the Starving Years and the rise of the Terran Empire from the ashes of Earth, there was much work to be done. While most of that was in rebuilding the Solar System, working to normalise trade with the Belt, the moons of Jupiter, and Saturn, and tackling piracy from those who had once fought under the Treaty Organisation’s flag — but there were also the colonies, far-flung seeds of human civilisation scattered across the night, to think of.

The Mistral programme was the sort of political masterstroke which characterised Lysander’s early years as Emperox of the Terran Empire, solving a number of her problems all at once. Leveraging Earth’s supply of complex organic molecules, desperately needed by the Asteroid Belt, in exchange for the construction of the Mistral interstellar ships she reinforced the economic ties between the Empire and the Outer Worlds Community, ensuring that the two competing great powers of the Solar System would be too financially entangled to ever come to blows.

In the same vein, by contracting the Barker-Kavelin Corporation — a holdover of the establishment dating back to before the Starving Years — to do much of the design work on the Mistral ships, she helped establish political unity between the old guard in Earth orbit and this new and largely untested imperial power on the ground. There were additional benefits, too — the antimatter that the Mistral series relied on to achieve speeds as high as seventy percent of lightspeed helped bring the Antimatter Kings of Mercury, who’d spent the past generation or so as an isolationist power basking in the sun’s glare, back into the fold. And Earth being so confident as to start work on starships may even have undermined morale among the pirate warlords formerly of the Treaty Organisation.

Whether these boons were all intentional or not is, largely, a matter of propaganda and politics. Whatever the case may be, the project was a success in cementing the Empire’s position as a major power in the Solar System both culturally and technologically, and before long both the Outer Worlds Community and the Saturn Confederacy were building RAIR starships of their own.

And that’s how the stars were won.

These ships are the workhorses of the Galaxy, carrying stargates out to new colony systems, and ferrying cargo and passengers between those stars not connected to the wormhole network. It is these designs which have allowed the Terraforming Service to keep ahead of humanity’s expansion into the Galaxy, littering the stars with garden worlds ripe for young colonies.

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