Regarding Project Steel, I've had a conversation with my spouse about this game, and she said that she wants to focus on diplomacy and politics, with exploration taking a back seat. So I'm thinking about skipping some of the exploration in the first two parts of the adventure and dealing more with looking for trade contacts (maybe a mining town on the outback) and then encountering the [i]ihatei[/i] (whom I'm going to use instead of the 'Swordies) and the Belgardians (the pirates). The player's ship will then encounter the pirate ship in orbit and combat will ensue, in which the pirate ship will lose and have to land to make repairs; the third part of Project Steel will probably be triggered not by the lost contact with the observation tower but rather by going after the crashed Belgardian "Cruiser".
By the way I might let my spouse also play her character's husband (the Captain and thus the supreme commander of the Aslan ship troops) in combat so that we could have a "minigame" of F.A.D. (I'm going to buy her some minis as a birthday present :)) in big combats like the one with the raiders in Project Steel.
I might also add a remote planet in the Egryn subsector to transplant The Night of Conquest to - too much politics in this adventure to ignore :)