looks very promising and I'll keep following the development. I hope the AI will be good and that the space combat is not too much clicking. May the best fleet win and not the best mouse clicking admirals.
Well in the game's list of features, it's mentioned that the AI is being worked on by an expert in the field. Also, apparently it's been built into the game from the very beginning, which means that it can be updated to "take advantage of new game features as they are added, giving the developers the maximum time to polish its behavior".
As for the space battles (again quoting from the features list), "the emphasis is firmly on tactics and maneuvering formations, rather than frantic clicking on individual ships". Given that lead developer Bob Smith seems to be a big fan of the Total War games (which he also spent a decade helping create), I'm reasonably confident the game's space combat will be as it's described.
When is the first demo due?
No date has been given yet. However, I would surmise it's likely going to be another few months, as while much of the game is already done, some key features have yet to be fully implemented. Most notably, the battle AI and higher-level empire AI haven't been added yet (although I believe it's being developed concurrent to the rest of the game; it's just not been integrated into the current build).
My personal guess would be sometime early next year, but don't quote me on that.