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Fuel Tanker "Luis Alvarez"

Fuel tankers like the Luis Alvarez are the lifeblood of inter-solar system travel, supplying the worlds of the inner system with precious helium-3 to fuel the powerful torch drives which link the planets together. Before the settlement of the Saturn system, helium-3 had to be produced by first bombarding lithium-6 with neutrons in specialized breeder reactors, creating tritium. The tritium would then be left to slowly decay into helium-3. This process was long and could not meet the growing demand new generations of torchships created for fusion fuel. Despite the distance and the engineering challenges associated with scoop mining gas giant atmospheres, helium-3 production shifted to Saturn.

Tankers like this are slowly filled at orbital refineries in low-Saturn orbit, which sift through the gas delivered to them by large, robust SSTO atmospheric skimmers.

Waiting in Saturn orbit for the scoopships to fill up its tanks with helium-3.

Waiting in Saturn orbit for the scoopships to fill up its tanks with helium-3.

The Alvarez over Saturn's rings.

The Alvarez over Saturn's rings.

Performing a braking burn into Ceres orbit, radiators glowing orange-red as they shed the fusion drive's waste heat into space.

Performing a braking burn into Ceres orbit, radiators glowing orange-red as they shed the fusion drive's waste heat into space.