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Fusion Drives & The Discovery
In the early 2200s, two crucial things happened that ushered in an era of interplanetary mining. The first was the invention of a rocket engine using fusion reactor technology, making it much easier and faster to traverse the solar system. This first generation engine type would later be referred to as a 'Poker' - referring to what the crew usually ended up doing onboard whilst waiting for the ship to slowly reach its destination.
For two decades, a few dozen ships from a handful of mining corporations reached the inner asteroid belt to survey for rare metals and minerals, using poker tech to get there and back.
A survey ship was dispatched to a dwarf planet called 10199 Chariklo, located between Saturn and Uranus. Scans from Earth had shown odd gravitational anomalies with the dwarf planet, so a contract was drafted for the private sector. Korean mining company Black Ocean won the contract, and sent out their flagship surveyor Gongsim III.
Which leads us to the second crucial thing that happened in this time period, and that is what Black Ocean discovered on Chariklo: vast and enormous deposits of iridium - one of the rarest metals on earth. Gongsim III quietly collected a five-tonne sample and returned to earth.
With virtually unlimited access to iridium (and legal claim to Chariklo to ensure an unimaginable monopoly on supply), Black Ocean secretly started researching the capabilites, use cases and characteristics of the rare metal.
At this stage no one yet knew what Black Ocean had discovered on a lifeless rock in the middle of nowhere, but it would come to revolutionise techology only a few years later.