Space travel before Interstellar Antimatter Refueling was a slow, multi-generational process with high casualties. [1] Genera et al (2294) summarize that century of failure as, “Lofty ideals, mega ships, and high hopes more often than not slowly sent to a grave in the void.” It wasn’t until a new proposal and many years of preparation that we have our new method.

Interstellar Antimatter Refueling, henceforth will be written as IAR and pronounced like “ear”, has already delivered on its promise many times and multiple new expeditions are underway. In this paper, we will understand why this change was successful, and what about this technology makes it so revolutionary for effective interstellar travel.

First Attempts

Generational ships and scout ships were the only kinds of ships that could be sent to other systems. While scout ships had many sub-classifications, sizes, means of propulsion and mission parameters [2], generational ships had exactly one class: Leviathan class, or the largest of all self-thrusting spaceships [3]. Leviathan class ships were built to house enough population and crew to seed a new world and begin colonization until further supply and colonist ships could arrive. Typical targets included Alpha Centauri, Epsilon Eridani, Procyon, and no further than Tau Ceti [4]. These trips were estimated to take four generations under anti-matter acceleration, with hydrogen ram-scoops for auxiliary power and course adjustments. The precision of the acceleration and decceleration was measured down to the gram, so little room for error was present [5, 6].

The engineering prowess of Leviathan class ships is not what is at stake here. While the original designers of these ships are long dead, this author would not sully their reputation. On the contrary, those kinds of ships were some of the greatest ships ever built, and I daresay with their passing may not be repeatable in the same way [7]. What our original designers could not account for, despite many trials within the Sol System, was the human element. Of the six multi-generation ships that left our system, only one, The Everlasting Hope, succeeded in getting to its target of Alpha Centauri, though with half the crew and three-fourths the viable reproductive population available. The colony likely does not have enough genetic diversity to survive unless a new cohort arrives within the next 70 years [8, 9, 10].

While scholars still debate the exact reason for the fall of all the Leviathan class ships, including The Everlasting Hope, they all agree on one defining theme: humans raised in a void, with little contact to Sol and her many jewels of life and culture, devolve rapidly into infighting, power struggles, and high resentment among ship-borne populations [12, 13, 14, 15]. This is in stark contrast to those ship-borne within Sol, even if on that ship for over a decade of their youth, who do not demonstrate such developmental problems [16]. This author will not inject their own speculations, but regardless of the cause multi-generational Leviathan class ships fell out of favor as the communications from each ship that came back indicated failure, before losing contact with all ships other than The Everlasting Hope [17].

The New Wave

What scholars also don’t disagree on is the speed of the Leviathan Class ships, which is a mere 5% of the speed of light, is too slow and the largest factor in their failure. While 5% may not seem like much, an astute reader will likely pop their eyes out at that number, as getting a Leviathan class ship to a cruising speed of 5% the speed of light takes an enormous amount of energy. Indeed, even with an impressive 86% efficiency rating of antimatter to thrust ratio, over 60% of the ship’s mass was dedicated to anti-matter (and its counter-part, matter) reserves [18].

This is where IAR shines. In fact, it was somewhat created by accident. In brief, antimatter is produced in large quantities at stellar harvesting platforms in Mercury’s orbit. This close to the sun a near limitless amount of power is available, and Mercury is strip-mined of its resources to produce solar collectors many hundreds of kilometers in circumference. This power produces anti-matter and then launched towards the inner planets with railguns. These are collected and stored locally for ships to access as fuel [19].

A scout ship was to be sent to Kaptyen’s star, the furthest yet, when an engineer realized they had miscalculated the total antimatter reserves needed to get there in the timeframe their contract had written. Rather than break contract on an expensive scout drone, they queried the APDC, the Antimatter Production and Distribution Conglomerate, if they could fire reserves at the scout’s projected path about 25 years out, or at the 6 light year midpoint of the journey. This was going to be lucrative for the conglomerate as, while less than breaking contract, was still a substantial amount willing to be paid. This caused the development of ultra-high-speed rail cannons that could deliver fuel payloads in excess of 40% the speed of light, well above what the scout ship would need. This meant the payload, while faster than the scout ship, would match position for a brief while with the scout ship at its mid point to refuel. This was confirmed successful just recently and the scout should arrive at its destination in time [20, 21].

With this new capability, APDC looked for new business opportunities. Why send massive multi-generational ships when you can send far smaller, and more easily accelerated, ships that capture their fuel in transit? They commissioned from several of the shipyards in system to design and build ships to test capturing and extracting fuel from payloads fired at high speeds into the void of interstellar space.

At first, it seemed APDC and the scout drone was like capturing lightning in a bottle: many first attempts ended in failure. Either the fuel was too far off course, too fast, too slow, or in several ambitious cases, so sloppily captured and transferred that many test ships evaporated when the antimatter became loose and annihilated everything within several hundred meters[22].

APDC rebuilt their rail cannons with a new design philosophy in mind: precision above all else. This meant payloads could only be delivered at 32% the speed of light, but now test ships were capturing nearly 80% of all fuel canisters launched. With this new technology refined, and a desperate attempt to save the Alpha Centauri colony, a new colonist ship was created rapidly that would rely on this refueling method. That ship arrived at Alpha Centauri in just one and a half generations, record smashing by any measure. While Alpha Centauri’s first colonists could not be saved, more generations of colonists have signed up and are in transit to Alpha Centauri and other systems[23].

The Golden Age

With the first colony on Alpha Centauri expanding and producing its first pieces of stellar manufcaturing and heavy industry together, there then came another problem. What to do with all the ships that arrived at colonial systems? The colonists had no problems with re-purposing them for in-system travel to orbiting asteroids for minerals. Without antimatter, however, in-system travel was extremely slow and reminescent of travel many centuries ago: crude engines, solar sails, or even orbital sling shotting to get around [24]. What was needed was a stable production of antimatter in colonial systems to get industry accelerating.

APDC, not wanting to take all the risk themselves, licensed their patents to a new firm, Colonial Energy Systems (CES), that would create a smaller, but still very productive, first stellar harvesting platforms for colonial systems. These would produce vital energy needed by both the re-purposed ships and ground-based infrastructure [25].

Once the tenth ship reached Alpha Centauri, which will from this point on be the only system of focus for this analysis as all other systems either aren’t setup fully, or follow a similar development path, the colonial system realized it made use of its first export: interstellar ships. Building these ships was still very expensive within Sol and as the colonies mounted debts and license fees, sending the ships back was a valuable source of income. In order to increase imports with sources of capital other than debt, the ships were loaded with metals uncommon in orbit within the Sol system, including Cobalt, Silver, and Chromium. With the life support systems removed for local use or shut off the energy needs of the ships were greatly reduced, allowing even a fully loaded cargo ship to make better use of the antimatter it received in transit, thereby nearly eliminating inefficiency as a cargo hauler [26]. Lastly, it wasn’t necessary for the ships to arrive as fast. Not needing to build another was so beneficial all its own the time difference wasn’t as important.

And with this, IAR now enabled interstellar trade far sooner than had been imagined. Colonies could finally become self-sustaining and escape the export trap that would see them forever in debt to the power of the Sol System. As mentioned before, many other colonies in other systems followed similar development paths, except for Procyon which was unexpectedly mineral poor within its asteroids and hasn’t yet found a sustainable export [27].

Piracy On the High Stars

What has been missed in all this discussion is the nuances of distrbuting antimatter for refueling in transit light years apart. A good rule of thumb is for every light year from a stellar harvesting platform a payload must be fired, the number of lost payloads increases 10%, compounding, with a base loss rate of 16%. This means to reach Tau Ceti, the furtheest colony supported by the major powers of Sol, would mean a 42% estimated loss rate. In practice, this appears closer to 50% [28].

This loss rate is not such a large problem, but APDC and CES both build in this loss within their contracts for ships that use their refueling payloads to create more consistent prices with only marginal changes between systems, and larger profits. However, the contracts are written such that APDC is only paid if the refueling ship can take fuel from a payload. This has benefits for both sides. If APDC does not accurately fire payloads and a ship can’t or won’t get to it, then neither side pays. APDC purposefully sets up its firing solutions so the payloads are captured by CES and then relaunched, saving both sides money. And if a ship does use the fuel, it pays a flat rate for use of the payload regardless of the total amount removed from it. Overall, this arrangement encourages both parties to be efficient with predictable costs [28].

This has one major side-effect: APDC and CES both will launch a very large number of payloads that no one will ever use. Either they are too off-course, too fast for the intersection point of a ship, or just no one intersected with the payload. Payloads can be manipulated to appear that a ship never extracted fuel from it until inspected. With such vast distances, it is somewhat easy for ships to report “error” in their transit paths that show they were actually somewhere else[29].

Thus was born piracy. At first APDC and CES thought their payloads were mistakenly empty before launching, and even announced apologies for potentially stranding ships without fuel. Both corporations quickly realized this was not the case. Their payloads were being opened and the fuel removed and used. Ships were stealing fuel and lying about their courses. After an audit of the report and actual paths of ships, along with rates of pay for payloads received, APDC noticed a 12% piracy rate of its payloads, far higher than CES’ piracy rate of 4.7%[30]. While it isn’t clear to this author why the discrepancy is so large, there is some debate among scholars that anarchist colonialist groups are more likely committing piracy to avoid incurring debts and becoming colonies of a major Sol power, usually Earth Primus [31].

Tourists, Jovians, and Colonial Oppression

Lastly, we will examine modern interstellar travel as it has operated in the last 45 years. We will avoid analyzing any of the major conflicts and developments of the last 20 years while other historians work to piece the most recent histories into a cohesive narrative.

Interstellar tourism became a big boom with the advent of 20 year transits, or 40 year round trips, to neighboring systems. This was enabled through smaller ship designs with high manufcaturing volume in mind, allowing for lower marginal costs. With cryosleep finally seeing breakthroughs to reduce biological aging in transit, an entire travel industry sprung up [32]. This form of tourism was, and still is, only affordable by the mega wealthy.

In one famous incident, Chalru Lidoncius was woken from cryo-sleep because the past three payloads had been empty and the AI needed information on what course adjustments to make. Chalru angrily ranted at any nearby ships that could receive the transmissions about certain groups of, as Chalru put it, “thin-boned space trash colonists”, before re-entering cryosleep. While it isn’t known which ship or group was responsible, it was clear from the distress signal and the receiving station that Chalru’s ship had been boarded. Chalru was rushed to emergency services, but later declared dead from
“excessive wounds and mutilations incurred within cryosleep”. The AI was tampered with to reduce the medical aid dispensed and to ensure Chalru was not woken. Whether the intent was to murder Chalru or not, the outcome fed the flames of colonialist tensions[33].

Jovian, a super power within the Sol System orbiting Jupiter, had muscled its way into becoming a kind of “intrastellar space police force”. Jovian had not projected its power outside of the Sol System, but was pushing for interstellar power. The Jovian government formed a mercenary arm within its own militaries to own pushing out into the broader space between systems for interstellar travel and defense. Colloquially, “Jovaniers” had become synonymous with “space marine” and became the name for any interstellar fighting force and its people. This text will adopt such colloquialism, in particular because Jovian itself uses that name [34].

Aside: Why the Earth Primus major power lost its position as the system’s enforcer fleet is highly contested among historians [35, 36, 37]. There is no consensus or even shared themes, but this author believes the Second Luna Impact Conflict was the final nail in the coffin for Earth Primus military supremacy.

After the shocking revelations of Chalru Lidoncius were made public, Jovian commited its Jovanier forces to patrolling interstellar space. This was largely funded by APDC and CES to maintain their refueling monopolies and punish piracy [38]. This announcement wouldn’t lead to much effective enforcement until 17 years later, when the first interstellar piracy enforcement action ended with both ships annihilated as the Jovianer force tried to intercept a pirate colonial ship stealing a payload and the payload was breached [39].

Since that incident, the number of Jovanier ships and methods of engagement have radically changed. APDC for the first time in 55 years published its piracy numbers to shareholders, boasting about its dramatic decrease in estimated piratical loss of payloads. Their share price had seen a large boost until the APDC-Jovian conspiracy was revealed as both sides working to oppress colonial worlds and sovereignty [40].

It is at this point we reach the most modern day history. I have many colleagues working hard on analyzing the tumultuous times we now live, including the monopoly busting of APDC and fall of the Jovaniers high status. These papers, if peer reviewed positively, should hopefully publish onto the larger interstellar infocache networks or local netdumps with the next data drones.


I’d like to thank Milhu, my furry gatt, for keeping me company while I worked to produce this 133 page paper. Special thanks to my life-long friend Mical Ky, who provided technical details for the section Capturing Relativistic Payloads, as without them I’d have been hopelessly lost. I’d also like to thank the staff at the Marsu University of Phobos for supporting my education the past 15 years. It has been a wonderful journey.


[1] Leviathans and their Wakes, Genera et al, 2294, pg. 344-367

[3] Leviathans and their Wakes, Genera et al, 2294, pg. 172-199

[7] Imperial Mega Ship Designs, Hari Seldon, 2203, pg. 87-88

[15] The Tripartite Problems of Close Bodies, Loo Cossin, 2320, pg 70-95

[25] Energy Systems and Wu-matter, Jonni Ska, 2315

[31] Ruling Interstellar Colonies, Interstellar Publications, Greene Mos, 2359, pg 719-826

[37] Genesis of the Neo Earth Primus Coalition, Ray Itadori, 2334, pg 15-55