The Megacorporations & the UCA
Each of the megacorporations contributing to the Cronus expedition had a vested interest in the mission at hand. Andra Biomechanics, founded in Moscow in the early 21st century by Natalya Andropov, a renowned researcher on the Human Genome Project, grew to specialize in a variety of genetic engineering, cybernetic, and mechanical engineering interests. Their products included medical bioengineering technologies, cybernetically assisted prosthetics, and even anthropomorphic mobile engineering vehicles (MEVs) used in construction, mining (terrestrial and otherwise), and demolition. They also did early research and development of mobile combat armor (MCAs) and armaments.
Shogo Industries, a Japanese conglomerate, had interests ranging from technology to publishing to the manufacture of children's clothing. With the advent of MEVs and MCAs, Shogo decided to offer their own highly advanced line of giant mechanized suits. Their designs were well received both for functionality and aesthetics. They also distinguished themselves for space-based product lines and microcomputer technology.
Armacham Technology Corporation got its start with the manufacture of commercial satellites and ground-based communication systems. Eventually, they would expand to encompass civilian and military vehicle manufacture, musical equipment, security systems, and, predictably enough, MEV and MCA technologies. Their MCAs (they discontinued their MEV lines after some early experiments) immediately caught the attention of the private sector and various military organizations alike. Sleeker and sexier than the offerings of their competitors, Armacham's MCAs were and still are considered the most striking MCAs available. Of course, form without function is useless, and Armacham delivers there as well. While not as rugged as Andra MCAs or as sophisticated as Shogo MCAs, Armacham's designs are reliable and hardy.
The UCA, originally intended as a joint venture that would ensure the continued profitability and expansion of the three organizations that founded it, took on a life of its own almost immediately. With its status as the primary regulatory agency for interstellar commerce, the UCA quickly swelled into an unwieldy bureaucracy. It was only after dissociating itself from its progenitors that it was able to restructure itself and become more efficient, simultaneously forming the United Corporate Authority Security Force (UCASF), which would soon become the dominant military power in existence. Within a decade, it was involved in the manufacture of deep space vessels, aircraft, ground-based vehicles, and MCAs. While the UCA's early entries in the MCA market were poorly received, subsequent models, especially the Defender and Enforcer, rank as some of the best MCAs available.
What makes kato especially enticing and useful is its unique chemical composition. Being of an organic nature, kato at first seemed comparable to petroleum-a vestigial remnant of ancient indigenous life. On further examination, however, it was discovered that kato is actually alive in some sense, although no more sentient than algae.
The importance of kato derives from its reaction to high temperatures. When burned, kato passes through several stages of recomposition before losing its volatility. Each of these stages produces an impressive amount of energy, but it's what happens at the subatomic level that proves the most beneficial.
In the course of its chemical breakdown, kato emits a tachyon field that can be harnessed to allow an object (such as a vehicle) contained within the field to tunnel (i.e. move from one place to another without passing through each increment of space in between), thereby travelling at superluminal speeds. Space travel without kato energy would be like walking from New York to Los Angeles versus flying there in a Concorde. As you can imagine, interplanetary travel without kato energy is entirely impractical.