I'm pretty new, and it seems like there are an awful lot of equipment types I'd have to switch factions to upgrade, how would that work, or are there other options?
The easy option is to switch faction is to 'buy' another contract. Though I would not recommend this as it is quite expensive and you better spend your credits on upgrades than switching contracts.
Alternative is to level up your ships until you can survive travel in the open space (min hard limit from the game was level 7 a year ago, but you will probably need stronger ship). On the first glance it looks nearly impossible, but still doable after some thoughts
If you worrying that you don't get currency of other factions, then i will reply that you better not spend ANY currency until your ships will reach tier 5 (level 13-15). I still spend something on T3 ships (levels 7-8), but that is probably not wise.
Because of that, having only 1 currency for a while should be enough.