FTL Travel - The Celeste is not the first, nor the only ship capable of faster than light travel. There are a handful of experimental, and exploration vessels that have successful FTL drives, but there have been no habitable planets found within the current radius of operations. The current sphere of human space extends for a radius of some 10 light years from earth. This limitation is mainly because of fuel concerns. The FTL drive requires a large amount of power that the current realm of fusion reactors can only provide when running at peak output. Every known FTL ship is not much more than a small crew area built in front of a massive single fusion reactor, or several smaller reactors working in tandem, fuel storage, and a minimal ion drive.
The current generation of fusion engines convert deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, also known as hydrogen II, into helium by the same action as the sun. The reactor produces a huge amount of power, but in doing so depletes its supply of deuterium with alarming speed. There is signifigant research devoted to overcoming this key problem, and making the habitation of extrasolar worlds a possibility when they are found. As of yet, not much progress has been made.
FTL intrasolar travel - it takes an equally large amount of fuel for a ship to cross the solar system, as ion engines use the same fuel as a fusion reactor. It has been recently discovered that it is more economical for a FTL ship to exit the solar system out to a distance of 1/2 to 3/4 of a light year, and then target a return jump to the desired destination. Thus a ship wishing to travel from Earth to Jupiter in a shorter amount of time than a bulk ion engine can provide could feasibly make a jump out of the system, reverse direction and make a return jump.
This reduces the demand for fuel, as well as allowing for surprise attacks as their is no EM or exhaust corona to betray approaching ships. It is the equivalent of having a stealth warship.
The UE and the Colonies - There are no human habitations outside of the Sol system. However, the solar system itself has become...crowded. The population of Earth hovers in the area of 15 billion people who are increasingly dependant on recycling, solar, and fusion power to maintain their way of life. The UE was formed partially as a way to consolidate power and partly as a way to conserve resources by creating planet wide standards of consumption and emisson. As much as many people hate the imperialistic and morally aloof UE, they have brought many of the planets problems back under control. The global economy has been stabilized, recycling is now mandatory by law, and population growth has been reduced from a staggering boom down to a meager .3%. This has been accomplished through regional incentive plans, punishments for excess breeding, and force sterilization for criminals, welfare recipients, and prostitutes.
The Inner Rim - the name given to the increasing belt of steel and ceramic growing around the earth, or a reference to the 19 superstations built by the UE to release pressure on population centers. Each of the superstations, clustered at the Terran Lagrange points is a habitat for as many as a quarter million people. Most of the larger stations are the property of various megacorporations, and private interests that were co-funded by the UE. As such, they generally have a better, albeit more sterile, quality of life than most Earthers. There are also a number of lesser stations that range from ultra-elite floating casinoes to squalid space debris waiting to fall out of the sky. All in all, some 12 million people live in orbit around the Earth.
The Lunar Colonies - founded largely by Asian interests, the Lunar colonies have been a huge relief on the Asian Rim. Millions of people were relocated by the various governments that predated the founding of the UE. Following the admission of China, and SE Asia, the number of people relocated to the burgeoning moon colonies increased. Each lunar colony is a subterranean sprawl of tunnels, corridors and hangers where miners are continually expanded the domain, sealing it as they go with ceram-steel. At the last census, there were an estimated 1.2 billion people living on, or in, the moon. The Lunar colonies are considered territories of the UE, and are considered under their jurisdiction and codes of law.
The Martian Colonies - The Martian colonies are generally older than the Lunar colonies, and are predominantly inhabited by settlers of Russian, Scandanavian, and Germanic descent. The colony of Diamunde is located in the southern polar region, and was settled primarily by American and Latin interests. It was during the late period of colonization that Colonel Murdoch commissioned the construction of several ballistic nuclear weapons, as well as a full regiment of main battle tanks and succedded in dominating most of the southern Hemisphere. The UE, still a fledgeling power and smarting from the brutal invasion of America was forced to respond or loose any semblance of a foothold on Mars. Murdochs forces were defeated and his war machine dismantled. Diamunde was sterilized, and the entire command system was executed as war criminals. The Martian population is currently in the vicinity of 500,000,000 and growing. Terraforming efforts have developed the atmosphere to an increased thickness, and the increase in planetary heat has caused the formation of shallow oceans on the red planet.
Mars as a Haunted Planet - Mars has gained a large amount of notoriety as there are large numbers of ghost sightings, and reports of supernatural activity on the planet. Many claim that the writings of Bradbury predicted aliens, and ghosts on Mars and that trying to tame the red planet should be abandoned. While there is no conrete evidence to support the claims, there is none to refute them, and the reports come in at a steady rate.
The Belt Colonies - founded by ore hunters, most of the Belt Colonies are fiercely independant and harbor a large grudge against the UE and their increasingly aggressive stance in space. The Belt Colonies are also capable of building and maintaining space ships, and do so. UESPA and UESN ships that wander too far into Belt territory have a bad habit of vanishing. The asteroid Ceres, home to colony P3X9, serves as the nexus of Belt politics and the central point in the belt resistance to the UE govt. The Belt has a small population, but retains a high quality of life as well as retaining large numbers of weapons. The Cateran was a Belt built ship.
The Jovian Colonies Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto are all inhabited, mostly by UE personel, but also by a large number of private interests and explorers. Most FTL research occurs in Jovian space, as well as the bulk of deuterium production. The Jovian colonies are largely neutral in solar systems affairs.