Union of Galactic Interests
The Exploration Corps
A quasi-governmental-agency for which the characters work. Builds ships, populates them with crazy, smart, talented people, then sends them on long-distance recon missions to find planets to colonize, resources to mine, or information to add to the library. Missions can last from between a month to a year or more, ships get sent with enough energy to get there but not back (must recharge on their own, somehow), and without faster-than-light communications.