The Royal Exploration Corps of the Golden Empire, the smallest branch of the Glorious Armada, was a body charged with exploring the Unknown Regions, searching for safe hyperspace lanes, worlds with resources, and sentient life. Though technically military in nature and using ships from the Armada, the Exploration Corps reported directly to the Prime Legate, bypassing the usual military chain of command.
Though guided by the Force to chart safe hyperspace paths for her own ship, the Empire's Queen, Rin Sakaros, could still only be in a single ship at one time, which would allow the Empire to expand only one world at a time. To counter this impossible task, and to help map the enormous and uncharted Unknown Regions, she created the Exploration Corps to explore and report back its findings to her at regular intervals.
Exploratory task squads were usually composed of at least one capital ship with a fighter contingent, as well as a variety of escort craft, probes, and long-range reconnaissance ships. Though they were technically military expeditions, in the event that they discovered uncharted systems which were home to sentient life, Exploration Corps task forces usually carried members of the Ministry of Diplomacy, a contingent of ground troops, and agents of the Royal Integration Corps and the Educational Expansion Corps.
Selection and service
Voyaging off into the unknown was an obviously dangerous proposition, and only members of the Royal Starfleet with proven capabilities were selected for command. No naval officer below the rank of Commander was ever given leadership of an exploratory fleet, and most of the fighter pilots and senior officers assigned to such a fleet had experience as well. Junior enlisted personnel were allowed to volunteer for service in the Exploration Corps only after a thorough background check and psychological tests to ensure their ability to function mostly out of touch with all society for months or even years at a time.
Because of the dangers and stress of exploration, members of exploratory fleets were given Special Duty Pay while their task squads were underway.
Complicated monitoring equipment was installed aboard every capital ship assigned to an exploratory task squad, allowing a precise recording of the coordinates of every hyperspace jump, as well as the results thereof. Task squads also took careful orbital surveys of every system in which they arrived, even if a system possessed no sentient life or useful resources. While the task squad itself usually remained outbound for a year or more, it would occasionally send back probes with reports to the world from which it launched, which were then forwarded to the Sovereign.
When the task squad as a whole completed its mission or exhausted its outbound supplies, it would report back to the Prime Fleet to brief the Sovereign. Copies of all data were also given to the Royal Observatory. Data were considered classified until systems had been incorporated into the Empire or colonized; only then were they released to the Ministry of Transportation for public dissemination.
Commanders of exploratory task squads and task forces, while not technically Legates, had authority to defend themselves with extreme prejudice from any attack, as well as exterminating pirates or other obvious threats to peace. However, they were not allowed to initiate military action against a non-hostile system, and could only do so with approval from the Prime Legate or the Sovereign.
If and when a sentient system was discovered, diplomats assigned to the fleet were authorized to begin the process of recruiting the system into the Empire. If such efforts were successful, attached Integration Officers and Educational Expansion Instructors could initiate their work as well. In all cases, however, whenever a sentient system or a system home to crucial resources was discovered, commanding officers of exploratory fleets were expected to report back to the Prime Legate.