The most critical use of an officer is to protect spaceships from Dark Matter while there is no player on board.
Officers are also able to do buy and sell orders, unlike ships without an officer. This means that it is possible to create a repeating spacecraft mission in order to set up trade routes. Buy goods in one system, fly to another, sell goods, fly back, repeat.
Officers may also be put in command of space stations, allowing you to do more with a station than you normally would in orbit (as normally they do not need officers). A world will only spawn one uncommanded station in orbit. Placing an officer in command of a station enables the city to spawn a second station, and so on.
|Lieutenant Junior Grade||LTJG|
Officers are also essential for solo Berth-a-Ports.
Only one officer per habitable orbit in a solar system. Solar systems with multiple stars may yield multiple habitable orbit, thus yielding more officers total. Ringworlds however will yield 1 officer per arc.
If the officer dies, a new one will spawn on the planet it originated from.
Officers are allowed on ship and station designs with at least one officer berth.
To have an officer board a ship, use the trade channel, and offer the open berth. If an officer is available, they will immediately board the ship.
Occasionally, officers will be on-board ships, but not in command of the vessel. On the Orders menu (Shift+F3) while you have a berth to the ship, you can see a listing of berthed crew, officers, troops and passengers. If the only officer on board your ship, for a length of time(minutes) is not listed as "in command of/commanding shipname", select the officer and press the "take the con" command, the officer should then follow all normal commands for a ship with an officer.
If the planet that the officer was spawned from no longer has a city that is part of your empire on it, the officer will become homesick. He will notify you of this in the reports the ship sends by mail. After 7 days of being home sick, he will commit suicide by way of self destructing the ship that he is on unless another officer is on board. Then he will just kill himself.