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Space-time (ST) constellations that are linear over the field of complex numbers are considered. Relevant design criteria for these constellations are summarized and some fundamental limits to their achievable performances are established. The fundamental tradeoff between rate and diversity is investigated under different constraints on the peak power, receiver complexity, and rate scaling with the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). A new family of constellations that achieve optimal or near-optimal performance with respect to the different criteria is presented. The proposed constellations belong to the threaded algebraic ST (TAST) signaling framework, and achieve the optimal minimum squared Euclidean distance and the optimal delay. For systems with one receive antenna, these constellations also achieve the optimal peak-to-average power ratio for quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) and phase-shift keying (PSK) input constellations, as well as optimal coding gains in certain scenarios. The framework is general for any number of transmit and receive antennas and allows for realizing the optimal tradeoff between rate and diversity under different constraints. Simulation results demonstrate the performance gains offered by the proposed designs in average power and peak power limited systems.