The hyperdrive opened the path to other worlds in the 2100’s. Humanity has had nearly 400 years to spread out among the stars. While initially planets suitable for human life were fairly rare, recent advances in Terraforming (from the 2350’s on) have allowed successful human settlement on worlds that were only marginally hospitable to life.
By the 2500’s, humans have spread nearly a quarter of the way up and down the Orion-Cygnus (local) galactic arm from Earth. Hundreds of colonies have been created, although only a few dozen have populations exceeding a few million. Most colonies are small resource-extraction outposts sponsored by large corporations for mining or gas harvesting operations. The largest of these outposts typically have tens or even hundreds-of-thousands of workers who live in giant ‘company arcologies’ on each world.
Known Space was settled in three waves of colonization, mainly limited by the technology of each time period. The Initial Wave began with the discovery of the Hyperdrive. Worlds with environments suitable for human habitation were discovered and settled. These became known as the First Colonies.
The development of Terraforming technology led to the Terraforming Wave. Many worlds were previously discovered but not suitable for human habitation. Worlds with sufficient resources relatively near to the First Colonies were Terraformed and settled.
As the best and most easily Terraformed worlds began to be claimed, many corporate interests looked to unexplored space to open up new sources of revenue. This sparked the Expansion Wave where exploration again became a priority. A ‘gold-rush’ era began with new worlds being discovered by the brave, the greedy, the desperate, or those just looking to avoid the Colonial Authority or Corporate control.