The broadly termed High-Energy Ram-Augmented (HERA) Engine is a highly-refined, well-established propulsion technology – in the years since its invention, HERA engines have served as a cornerstone of human expansion and infrastructure through space. Though the exact specifications vary between manufacturers, all HERA engines are based on a form of clean, inertial-confinement fusion at extremely high energy levels. HERA engines are notable due to their ability to collect ambient hydrogen during transit, enabling them to travel for long periods without the need to refuel (technically, they still require fuel, but not vast amounts of stored propellant) , though they do require immense amounts of power.
Safety and Destructive Potential
HERA engines are magnetohydrodynamically sealed, preventing radiation and deadly exhaust from reaching the crew or other parts of the ship. HERA engines that comply with ICCS specifications are approved by most governing authorities for use in inhabited systems, so long as they are not within the atmosphere of a planet or in close proximity to another ship or installation.
At close ranges (within a few kilometers), unconventional military tactics have demonstrated the use of HERA engines as improvised weapons in space. The use of HERA engines within a planet’s atmosphere is strictly forbidden by numerous interstellar treaties due to the massive short-term damage and long-term environmental fallout that can result, and is commonly considered an atrocity.
Because of their immense power, thrust from HERA engines typically provides the artificial gravity for ships during long burns between orbits. As a result, escort and capital sized ships tend to be designed like towers rather than boats – with an array of HERA engines at the bottom and decks stacked on top of each other above.