The 2032 International Solar Defense Conference in Mexico City began with discussing the new discovery on Europa. The first thoughts were of course whether or not the presumed aliens on Europa were a threat to life on Earth. However considering the presumed technological level displayed by the iron and brass sphere it was deemed to be rather unlikely.
The Europans however presented a new challenge for the defenses of Earth, which split the the experts on the conference. One group intended to integrate Europe into the defense of the Solar System, while the other group wanted to keep the main defense concentrated on the inner solar system.
The first group noted that Jupiter was the second biggest gravity well within the solar system and most likely to house human settlements in the near to medium future and that a defense would have to be implemented eventually anyway. Setting it up early to defend aliens, that could very well be native to Europa and therefor brothers of sorts, would only be logical and could be seen as a sign of being good neighbours.
The second group on the other hand brought the natural defenses of Europa into mind. The thick ice shield of Europa was a great cover and could be expected to prevent any actual danger to the ocean beneath, protecting any aliens. If human settlements had to be set up in the Jovian system it would be early enough to set up defenses there.
The conference remained split on the matter, and it was decided to continue this subject in a separate conference as there were other matters that needed to be discussed, like the bad results of the tests for the four big combat spacecraft built by the Big Four. The tests had been rather conclusive and later analysis of the data had revealed several causes for the failures.
The defensive and offensive capabilities of the spacecraft had already been identified as ultimately lacking and it was clear that they had to be increased, by new and larger combat capable spacecraft.
One of the other major problems was the lack of actual communication between the crews of the spacecraft during the simulations. While the US Space Force had talked to Euroforce, communication between them and the Soviets and Chinese was found to be nearly nonexistent.
Another big problem was the wide difference in performance between the four spacecraft, which made it hard to coordinate maneuvers and tactics, even if the crews were actually talking to each other.
Only a few general ideas on how to deal with these and several smaller problems emerged from the following discussion before the end of the Conference.
Before the 2034 ISC Conference, high ranking government officials of the European Union and the United States, met several times to begin a cooperative program for space borne defenses. It was also a new chapter in a now 15 year long effort to rebuild some sort of cooperation following the problems in the 1970s and 1980, when the NATO was reduced to a bare minimum. The meetings were successful and led to the Initiative for Integrated Defence and Orbital Security.
The 2034 ISC Conference was held in Durban, where the Europan Situation was placed on a lower priority as the Arcas Project was already underway and would yield results later on.
Instead the problems considering the lack of defensive power were discussed, as were several potential solutions.
One of the first projects of the IIDOS had been to begin with the design of the ‘Basic Universal Spacecraft System’, using a core spacecraft design as a base for different configurations as combat capable craft. As these spacecraft would have a very similar performance across the board, it would be easier to coordinate tactics and maneuvers. Additionally the construction could be speed up and its cost reduced by using mass production techniques.
The project was heavily discussed and the smaller space powers were very interested in the design, as the low costs would allow them to operate their own combat spacecraft, though the Big Four noted their concern on this. The Chinese and Soviets eventually admitted that the advantages of such a design would outweigh the disadvantages and signalized their approval to taking part in the further development.
The Soviet Union had begun to use their experience in the construction of autonomous defense satellites like the Polyus System, and started with the development of remote operated space combat drones. Such drones could be armed with any weapon used by larger spacecraft and return to their carrier craft to be refueled and rearmed. The first design study of such a drone was equipped with a gaseous core nuclear engine, enabling efficient propulsion.
The software and the communication systems needed to make such a drone viable, were years away from any real completion however. It gave the other nations time to develop their own similar systems.
The 2036 ISD Conference was held in Istanbul and the first subject was that the Enemy of the Quetzal and Turukal still had not shown up and that currently only asteroids were a threat to mankind, one that could be diverted relatively easily as Orbital Industries had shown. Threat levels were low for the moment and especially the democratic nations had hard times to try and explain high defense spendings when there was no visible threat to defend against, to either the public or politicians that were trying to get reelected and wanted to trim budgets. The fact that a decent portion of the aliens on Earth were doing their best to tell everyone that the Enemy could not exist anymore after more than three thousand years had its own influence on the general mood.
The ISD Conference had also lost some of its energy, with only a relative small core of experts coming together to discuss the current situation.
The second topic was the final discoveries on Europa and the aliens there. It had become clear that the aliens would not be a threat to Earth or the rest of the solar system. While there now was a permanent human presence in the Jovian system, without a threat to defend against, outside the chance asteroid, there was no need to build up any defenses that far out in the solar system. The Europans were nice and safe, buried under several tens of kilometers of ice, while the human presence was small and could be protected by the spacecraft stationed at Callisto.
So the programs to defend mankind were scaled down, even though developments continued. The last big advancement that was presented for some time on the ISD Conference was the first prototype design for the ‘Multi-Mission Universal Spacecraft’. Though other than the initial design study of the IIDOS, the MMUS was a design that came in two versions, one military base design and one civilian base design.
The MMUS was a octagonal truss design with a length of 250 meters and a diameter of 35 meters, with two or four dual mode fusion thrusters on one end. Two International Berthing Adaptors were installed into the truss structure about 50 meter behind the front, designating the dorsal and ventral sections of the design. Crew habitats for crews of up to 32, and two grav decks, 30 meter in diameter, were housed within the truss section, as were tanks for 51000 tonnes of water, 260 tonnes of deuterium, as well as nearly 60 tonnes of helium 3 for basic propulsion. Additional tanks could be also attached to the outside of the spacecraft, where four droplet type radiator systems and four smaller conventional radiators took care of the waste heat of the space craft.
The military version of the MMUS was going to be equipped with a thicker armor system on top of the truss section, as well as external weapon stations and sensory systems. The civilian version would lack the armor and had mounting points for other forms of payload, be it cargo, science or industrial equipment. Additionally the MMUS was designed to incorporate the FTL drive system, that was under international development, with only minimal modifications even to already existing MMUS spacecraft.
That the MMUS had a civilian side, and was most likely going to be relatively affordable by corporations as well as nations, was the main point of interest in the design, even though the Big Four as well as Brazil and India were interested in the military designs.
The arrival and capture of Apophis in Earth orbit and the claim of Orbital Industries on the asteroid was something of a sore point for the Big Four and lead to another big discussion at the Conference. Internal politics of Sky Watch had nearly resulted in a great disaster and actually made the efforts made by the organizations look moot in the face of an actual threat of an asteroid.
The public image of Sky Watch and in turn of the nations involved with the organization had been hurt. At the moment many wondered if the Big Four could even be ‘bothered’ to defend Earth against long dead aliens, when they were busy to defend Earth against space rocks.
On the conference this resulted in several different points of view. One side intended to deny the claim of Orbital Industries on the asteroid and use it as a base station for the space forces of the Big Four. The opposite side wanted to confirm OIs claim on Apophis and then hand over the asteroid business to private contractors.
There was no actual result on the subject and the issue slowly faded to the background over the following Conferences.
The ISD Conferences of 2038, 2040 and 2042 were reduced in scope, as the mood on Earth moved away from trying to build up a defense against a threat that still had not materialized, even though it was actively watched for, towards the construction settlements within the solar system as well as exploration of the places that were still unknown.
In late 2040 the first four prototypes of the military version of the MMUS were finished and individually equipped by the Big Four. The craft, named USC Independence, Concordia, Chapayev and Chengdu, were undergoing trials to Mars and Venus, after which they returned to Earth to begin a new series of simulated combat against the same forces that had defeated the first actual combat capable spacecraft of the Big Four. This time the results of the tests were a little better, as 7 out of 10 runs resulted in success, due to better equipped ships and more efficient communication.
In 2041 the construction of the Brazilian Jaceguai, the Indian IS Shankul and the Australian HMC Sydney increased the defenses of Earth, while the construction of several civilian MMUS as well as that of the Beagle, the first FTL equipped spacecraft, delayed the construction of more military MMUS until 2043.