The currency in StarMade is named credits, they make up the basic structure of the economy in the game. There are several ways of obtaining credits, some easier than others, some not so easy, some faster, some slower, each has its drawbacks.
In order to obtain money you will be using shops a lot. Be it through looting pirates, or cracking planets in half for the juicy goodness. There is no wrong or right way, as long as your credits are going up.
Mining can be a quick way to get into the game right of the start. By using a lightweight salvage ship, you can efficiently rack up tons of credits. remember that each planet has its own biome, because of this, it can and will be important to remember the color scheme of the planets from a distance, we wont go over that right now though.
These are personal favorites of many a space miner. They provide high quantities of valuable resources such as Ice Crystals, and Ice Rock. Ice crystals sell for 500Cr each and come in large veins ranging from 10 to 200. They are a quick way to gain Credits fast. The Ice rock is what around 70% of what the planet is made of and sell for 100Cr each.
These can have valuable resources such as small cactus and regular cacti. The cacti growing on the surface can be easily harvested by hand and sell for 1000cr a cactus making this one of the better operations to do by hand.
If you can kill a pirate (shoot their core) they will drop a large amount of resources. L5 Ores and some other types of blocks are extremely valuable, and can make you billions. Finding a stack of 1000 L5 Ore is a good way to make money quickly. Also once you get a station up and running, you'll be able to do some manufacturing, and make your own ship components to make more ships.