Currently pirates are not that big of a deal. Yes you have some players who attack on sight and others who will protect you. But in reality a freighter carrying crates full of valuable materials would be attacked more often then a bored player in a default fighter.
So I propose a system. As you leave a planet and move there is a chance with every chunk you move that you will get a optional event in the chat box. If you accept you are teleported to a arena in which you will fight a few pirates or even you found a crashed or abandoned ship with loot and maybe even credits. But why would a crew of 4 or 5 fighters that don’t even have shields be further away from a system than even space stations? Well to counter this the closer you are to a planet or hyperspace beacon the weaker the enemy’s you fight. This discourages players who are new from starting a base in the middle of nowhere as a fleet of heavily armed convoy raiders could attack them. If your in a shuttle and you get a event right next to a planet then you don’t have to worry about say a fleet of cruisers with heavy cannons. Maybe some ships are immobile and carry good loot if you dock to them making the docking bay useful.
The possibilites don’t end at pirates and abandoned space stations though. You could find a mercenary convoy full of power armor and detonators but it had guards that would tear a weak ship apart. You could find a trade ship with a bazaar titled the “Event bazaar”.
But if you don’t want to fight a fleet of military vessels from a far off land, well you can skip the event and get no reward at no risk.
All I’m saying is that space feels empty.