A simple solution to the lack of a death penalty in the game (Space Combat only):
1. When your ship is about to explode a percentage of your crew survive based on the force you were fighting against (the worse odds against you the lower the percentage of crewmen survive). Your bridge officers all survive.
2. You end up on a starbase, your ship is in repair dock, your crewmen, that survived, are hanging out.
3. You need to pay a fee for new crewmen and a small repair fee based on which class and configuration your ship is.
This will work if the amount of credits, energy or merits (whatever) you recieve is increased.
Currently the lack of a death penalty will limit the games appeal. My suggestions need work, obviously, but its a start.
In WoW it was always the repair bill that kept people trying to play their A or B game, no death penalty and I gaurentee you this game will fail completely after a period of time.
Its a great game, and the death penalty I illustrated above is simply and will be effective. Its more then enough of a reason to play your best if your going to have to pay for "repairs".