The New Frontier Survey was one of the largest astrometric survey projects ever undertaken in the history of Known Space and has not been surpassed in the following more than 300 years. A consortium of many of the largest mining companies at the time comissioned the surveying and calculation of hyperspace routs for 16 new sectors, increasing the mapped area of the galaxy by over 5%. Great hopes had been placed on the discovery of significant easy to access resource deposits, and while initial exploration missions to the most promising systems turned out quite promising, the overall commercial success of the project has become widely regarded as somewhat disappointing by the space mining industry.
The initial gold rush for the most valuable mineral deposits lasted barely a century, after which the productivity of newly opened mines only slightly exceeded those being operated much closer to the home systems, barely justifying the additional deep space transportation costs. Since then, the New Frontier has seen a slow but steady decline as, and most mined and refined elements end up in the few major colonies that have been established in the region instead of going to the main markets in the home systems where they sell for significantly higher prices. Some of the New Frontier sectors have already been completely abandoned by the major mining and industrial companies, but those closer to the core sectors of Known Space, which have seen the establishment of several major colonies, are believed to have a sufficiently large and stable population and economy to survive long term as part of the interstellar periphery.
The discovery of a native population on Talassan resulted in the immediate establishment of a 100 lightyear exclusive economic zone around the system according to standing interstellar conventions. After initial contact was established by a delegation of the Galactic Community, there was a strong support among most major local Akiiru governments to put a ban on interstellar companies operating within their space until an international body could be established to make trade deals and grant commercial licenses and exploitation rights on behalf of the whole planet. Since then the Akiiru have been extremely cautious, greatly limiting trade with other worlds to prevent the local Talassanian economy from falling under the control of foreign powers. The integration of Talassan into the interstellar economy has been very slow, and while the planet’s Akiiru population vastly outnumbers that of all the colonies in the New Frontier combined, its significance as a market for foreign companies still lags well behind several of the colony worlds.
In addition to the 3 billion Akiiru on Talassan, there are about 200 million colonists and mining employees living in the New Frontier. This number is assumed to remain relativly stable over the next 100 years, but likely to see continued migration from the failing mining worlds to the larger colonies with fully developed local economies. Many of the major mining fleets getting relocated to other regions of Known Space is having a huge impact on the numerous trade companies that largely relied on the miners as customers for consumer goods. With this market continuing to fall away, competition between them has become increasingly fierce, frequently involving bribery, dealings with pirates, sabotage, and even assassination. The recent establishment of an Akiiru colony on Palan, close to several other planets with considerable populations, has rekindled some hopes of Talassan opening up as a major available market, but competition among the struggling merchant houses is expected to become quite explosive and could potentially risk the Akiiru closing off their internal economy completely.
While Known Space is a much larger region of the galaxy and home to the homeworlds of the various species that each have populations in the bilions, I think that the New Frontier is probably going to remain the entirety of the Iridium Moons setting. The cultures of the home systems and the interactions of the main interstellar powers don’t really interest me and I like the idea of the small worlds of the New Frontier being basically forgotten by the rest of the galaxy, left to the patricians of the big mining and trade companies to treat as their private fiefdoms.