This article heeds more pictures, preferably of the Academy.
The Terrene Protectorate is a multi-species coalition to train graduates to protect and lend aid across the known universe. All graduates are given a standard issue Matter Manipulator, allowing them to break down and place materials. The Protectorate is led by a Grand Protector.
The Terrene Protectorate comprises as many as seven member races, all playable ingame. Members of the organization are collectively referred to as "Protectors". Being a humanitarian organization, the Protectorate is well known throughout the Starbound universe. Multiple NPC's say they were considering to join the organization, but likely did not due to the incident that occurred in the time period Starbound takes place.
Main article: Matter Manipulator
Shown to be a powerful tool and a symbol of the Protectorate, the Matter Manipulator is a handheld, golden tool capable of breaking, placing, and relocating materials. Upgrades are available through the use of Manipulator Modules, increasing its range, power, and area of effect, and even allows it to collect liquids, wire electronics, and paint surfaces. The very Protectorate logo is modeled after the Matter Manipulator (or perhaps vice versa).
Events of StarboundThe Protectorate only makes an official appearance during the intro mission. In said mission, the Player is seen in a dormitory at the academy. A ceremony follows shortly afterward, with the then-current Grand Protector Leda Portia congratulating all cadets. As the ceremony brings to a finish, the Academy is attacked by an unknown organism, destroying the Academy and killing most of the attendees, with the player surviving the encounter. The Grand Protector, now about to die, tells the player to grab the Matter Manipulator she dropped for the player to flee with into a ship. It is after this that the Protectorate, along with Earth, is destroyed and the story begins.
Despite their only active appearance being the intro mission, the player can encounter vestiges of the organization in the form of a deep-space vault and a vehicle tied to a bounty microdungeon.
Even though only the vanilla races have members in the Protectorate, any race, modded or otherwise, is capable of joining the Protectorate, as all races that do not have a separate intro mission default to the Protectorate Academy mission.
While the Protectorate do not appear to have many installations of their own, they do appear to at least have relied on civilian supply ships according to some space NPC dialogue.
Given the fact that the Human flag does not match the Protectorate banner and is featured as a flag representing Humanity within the intro mission, it seems likely that the Protectorate is not the Human government itself.
As seen to the right of the "Events of Starbound" section, there are several easter egg npcs hidden among the crowd including much of the dev team, some Glitch with unused "hair" styles, and possibly some backers and even beta characters.