Space Boomers (draft)
The success of the early pioneering Earth ships had fostered deep public interest for civilian space travel by the 2080s, which the UESPA took advantage of with the Earth Cargo Service. The ECS was well received by the public and market analysists alike as it promised to rebuild Earth's economy and extend the privilege of space travel to the masses. The service answers to the Earth Cargo Authority, which enforces a licensing scheme aimed at fostering and maintaining Earth a good standing among the interstellar community whilst allowing civilians to take to the stars and conduct trade in the name of Earth.
The benefit of ECS registration cannot be overstated. For the ship crews, lucrative contracts could be made for transporting Earth trade cargo to and from Earth colonies and friendly powers in the Quadrant. For Earth itself, the threat of revoking ECS licenses could dissuade lateness, unfair trade, and hostility from Earth-registered ships without needing UESPA ships to 'police' Earth's space entirely. Interest in conducting trade crew rapidly in the 2080s and 2090s, with as many as two hundred civilian ships being added to the ECS register from 2086 to 2093 alone! Most of these ships, however, were barely adequate - most were either improvised designs or retrofitting older designs such as DY-100, DY-245, or DY-430 sleeper ships with unlicensed Yoyodyne-type reactor clones. It was widely recognised that some standardisation would be needed in the long run to ensure the safe operation of such a critical organ of Earth's recovery.
Probably the single most important ECS ship is the J-class freighter of 2095. Development for the ship began in 2086 with the co-operation of the UESPA as it also desired some cargo ships for its fleet. Originally, the UESPA was going to provide Yoyodyne-type reactors in its usual dual-reactor configuration. However, this turned out to be problematic due to the ECS strict design requirements - one of the major 'musts' for the design for the freighter was a modular cargo-holding spaceframe that attaches to an almost vestigial Warp ship. This design trait would effectively allow the ship to dock up with different cargo spaceframes much like how a 20th/21st Century lorry could hitch and unhitch to different trailers. Thus the small Warp ship would need a smaller (and preferably singular) reactor. The UESPA also took interest such a reactor for its own next generation exploration-type ship. With that in mind, the job of developing this much-needed innovation was given to Zefram Cochrane himself.
Ever since his achievement and the end of his initial involvement with early UESPA missions, Zefram Cochrane spent most of his time touring Earth as a planet-wide hero. Eventually reality kicked in through the alcohol and he eventually decided to become more involved with Earth's future, especially after being disheartened with that fact that the Cochrane-type reactor system was already largely phased out of UESPA service due to its immature requirement of six small reactors in series. Cochrane vowed to develop the first singular reactor powerful enough for starship use by itself.
Whilst such a reactor was an absolutely must for a ship design such as the J-class, the UESPA also had its sights aimed on such a development. In anticipation of his achievement, the UESPA began work on its next-generation explorer type ship.
The Emmette-class was the first project to utilise the Cochrane II-type reactor. Lead ship SS Emmette (UESPA-27) was a major shift in starship design with its streamlined, delta-shaped exterior. Surface details and features were largely omitted in order increase armour surface area, something the UESPA felt it needed on its new front-line ships after a nasty encounter with the Orion Syndicate in 2092. To complement the armour, the UESPA's new hull polarisation technology was incorporated into the design. Two plasma repeaters and a single missile launcher make up the ship's armament. One other big innovation of the design was the "protoimpulse" engine from YPS, which was a revolutionary replacement for the then-standard chemically conservative thrusters of previous UESPA ships. Initial tests of the reactor showed huge promise - instead of an incremental speed improvement over the DY-500-class, Emmette was going to greatly eclipse all previous ships and put its maximum Warp factor one-third of that of the fastest Vulcan starship of the period.
However, both the Cochrane II reactor and the protoimpulse engine were 'young' developments and Emmette ultimately became an interim. The final classification at launch was a surveyor. 19 ships from UESPA-28 to UESPA-46 followed Emmette into service over a 15-year period. The typical mission profile for the ship was conducting planetary surveys to determine habitability of distant planets, and whether they would be suitable for colonisation (or just simple manned exploration) by larger ships. With its heavy armour coupled with speed, Emmette impressed in service as a durable, independent, and quick long-range explorer. Success eventually led to subsequent surveyor classes such as the Neptune-class of 2125, which gained fame in Starfleet service during the 2140s.
Whilst Emmette-class production was underway, the UESPA return its attention to the J-class. Fitted with a Warp 2-capable Cochrane II reactor, the J-class proved superior to all current civilian ships by a long margin. The level of success also warranted the ECS to market a Warp 1.8-rated reactor (Cochrane IIa-type) for civilian usage, although it never sold well due to its high cost. Unused Cochrane IIa reactors had to wait several decades before eventually being fitted to the also famous (and very large) Y-class freighter.
During the next few decades, the ECS became Earth's merchant marine of sorts. The most ambitious of ECS-registered ship captains also undertook large journeys that eventually ensured that the ECS became Earth's largest presence outside the Sol system whilst the UESPA was exploring closer system and only sending its fastest surveyors on the frontier regions of known space. The long distances in travel also kick-started the formation of a large interstellar community commonly referred to as the "space boomers". Friends and family typically ran ECS ships, and friends became couples and families became larger during the long distance missions. Entire generations grew up on ships such as the J-class.