Check the Oolite Wiki as well, there are extra ships to upload and you can even customise your own ship!!
If I recall correctly, there was a mission once you arrived at the planets to the upper right of Galaxy 1. There are cheats (SARA or SUZANNE work on some versions of Elite) that allow you to select the missions, it's been so long I've forgotten which password works with which version.
I'm sure if you get hold of the LSD Docs Disks you will find out what you need to know (Hippoonios' site has them).