The British love affair with steam power was not something to be easily lost, but it turned out to be a blessing when it came to space.
The fact that burning coal to make steam burns oxygen had been known for a long time so when the British went into space they quickly learned they needed an alternative. But management of steam was something the British knew very well so instead of looking for another way to generate the electricity they needed, they found a different way to generate heat.
Not so much found, as stole.
The Spanish inventor Narcís Monturiol i Estarrol had a fully functioning submarine
[Bad Link: Plugin Not Found] in 1867 - driven by steam power that could stay submerged for 9 hours. Instead of burning coal he used a chemical reaction of decomposing Potassium Chlorate reacting with Zinc, using Manganese dioxide as a catalyst. Not only does it not burn oxygen - it generates oxygen as a by-product.
The British refined the process and and industrialised it. The Voidships and atmospheric flyers could burn coal when they had access to atmospheric oxygen. But as the height increased they switched to the chemical reaction. The British demand for these chemicals came to dominate their trade.