You could say the whole game is grinding in one way or another, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, but it’s fun while doing it, at least when you find what you like doing.
Good example, if you’re a trader like a friend, you trade between stations, and with your profits, you save up to get a bigger better trading ship. With tie increased profits you get from that you buy, yet another better trading ship. Another friend likes short distance passenger missions and did those heavily for a while, following the same chain just for those ships. The nice thing is though, you don’t have to be locked into one “career”. I’ve mostly done bounty hunting, but after getting a decent upgrade on the starter ship, I used my money from that and grabbed a multi purpose ship and dabbled in a bit of everything. I found I really like both bounty hunting, and long range passenger missions where I can also do some exploring. It can be extra fun if the passenger is wanted, so you have to make sure guy don’t get scanned or people will try to blow you up.
There’s also engineers, which I haven’t really done anything yet with, but apparently are super grindy. You unlock them by doing some task or bringing them something, then have to collect various resources to give to them. Unfortunately, the bonuses they give are heavily affected by rng, so you may have to roll the same upgrade a lot of times. I think at their conference though the devs said they’d rework some things with them.
TLDR technically since there is no real story, it’s mostly just you doing whatever you like doing to make money or resources, to upgrade to a ship that’s better at doing whatever you like doing, so on and so on.