Exploration for Beginners

When I first started playing Elite: Dangerous, I knew that my eventual goal would be to explore deep space. While I've spent more time inside the human-occupied "bubble" than not, it has always been with an eye toward getting back out "into the black", building up money, ships, and standing with the engineers to fund and supply those expeditions. Along the way, I discovered how complex and non-intuitive aspects of the game can be. I could have saved myself a lot of time and difficulty if I knew more right from the start, but the learning experience is worthwhile too, and for all the years of gaming that I've done, I'm usually pretty quick to pick up a game's mechanics and specifics fairly quickly. Having said that, I've tried to compile some tips and information that a new aspiring Explorer might find useful. Some of this is exploration specific, and a lot of it is also general to Elite: Dangerous.

This document assumes you already know how to at least play the game, basically, and understand some of the game's terminology. This isn't meant to be a quick-start guide, but rather a list of tips and details that are easy to miss. It's more like a list of things I wish I knew in the first few weeks of play, rather than discovering slowly over months. :)

-CMDR Orvidius


Getting started:

General Exploration:

Navigation and Maneuvering:

Ship Systems and Modules:

Building an exploration vessel:

You can explore in any ship, but there are some aspects which are worth considering. Jump range matters most in terms of how long it takes to travel from point A to point B, and will also affect how easy it is to cross gaps or sparse regions. Generally speaking, a jump range of at least 35 lightyears will be sufficient to go almost anywhere except the most remote areas, and deep into the edges of the galaxy. A range of 50 ly or more will effectively allow you to go nearly anywhere. Aside from those caveats, jump range isn't as important as you might initially think. Many explorers prefer to execute lots of shorter jumps in order to more thoroughly explore the stars they travel through. Others like to go places quickly, and then explore "over there". So choosing a ship often comes down to using the ship you enjoy flying the most. You'll be out in deep space for days, weeks, or even months or years, depending on your exploration strategy, so you might as well enjoy flying your favorite ship.

Sample exploration templates, by ship:

I've assembled some sample configurations for many of the ships in the game, along with a "standard" jump range for that configuration. With enough time and effort, all of these numbers can be exceeded, and indeed you may wish to sacrifice some jump range in order to add more equipment to your ship. These templates use the Coriolis "extreme" settings for all of the engineering modifications, and can definitely be improved upon. However, they make a good estimate of what your "target" jump range may be. Don't fret if you aren't able to achieve these jump distances right away. It requires unlocking several engineers and finding a lot of the required materials. It will take time and patience to outfit your ship and fully optimize it. My suggestion is to alternate between exploring and improving your ship, so that neither activity gets stale.

For most of the templates below, I opted to favor running cooler rather than using the lightest possible power plant. I also select fast modifications for the surface scanners, rather than long range, but this will come down to personal preference and scanning habits as to which one you will want. Additionally, I've retained shields, and a distributor large enough to permit boosting, both of which are very helpful when landing on planets. For post-3.0 engineering, the templates assume a maximum grade-5 FSD range modification with the Mass Manager experimental effect, for a +61.2% Optimized Mass. Please note that for smaller ships that use FSD size-4 or smaller, the Deep Charge experimental effect will grant a greater jump range than Mass Manager, but it also consumes more fuel and power, so I opted to keep the templates consistent and assume Mass Manager only.

NOTE: These templates are mostly up to date, but Coriolis hasn't updated with all of the new engineering templates yet. These will still serve as a good ballpark estimatation, but most of the modules are using the ED 2.4 numbers with "extreme" settings in Coriolis.

Click on the lightyear ranges below, for Coriolis builds. Columns can now be sorted.

*1. Slots = Number of unrestricted optional internal slots, as of 3.0.
*2. Maximum scoop size relative to FSD size (For instance, "0" means they're equal).

Ship    Slots¹       Utils   Scoop²       Pad    Jump
Adder5201 36 ly
Alliance Chieftain5412 41 ly
Anaconda11813 65 ly
Asp Explorer7412 53 ly
Asp Scout6212 46 ly
Beluga Liner76-13 45 ly
Cobra Mk.III6201 40 ly
Cobra Mk.IV8201 35 ly
Diamondback Explorer64-11 57 ly
Diamondback Scout44-11 43 ly
Dolphin6311 48 ly
Eagle4101 34 ly
Federal Assault ship6402 35 ly
Federal Corvette10813 33 ly
Federal Dropship7412 30 ly
Federal Gunship5412 30 ly
Fer-de-Lance5612 31 ly
Hauler4211 40 ly
Imperial Clipper8423 41 ly
Imperial Courier6401 37 ly
Imperial Cutter9813 40 ly
Imperial Eagle4101 35 ly
Keelback6312 40 ly
Orca6413 52 ly
Python9412 44 ly
Sidewinder4201 30 ly
Type-6 Transporter7312 45 ly
Type-7 Transporter9413 45 ly
Type-9 Heavy10423 34 ly
Type-10 Defender9813 39 ly
Viper4201 34 ly
Viper Mk.IV6201 38 ly
Vulture5411 34 ly

General rule of thumb for number of unrestricted optional internal slots: Optionally, any leftover slots can be used for something else, such as a fighter hangar, cargo rack, docking computer, etc. Beyond that, leftover slots should be filled with additional AFMUs since they help absorb heat damage (cargo racks will not), and give you additional repair "ammo".

Scenic places to visit:

This website is not an official tool for the game Elite: Dangerous and is not affiliated with Frontier Developments. All information provided is based on publicly available information and data supplied by players, and may not be entirely accurate.

'Elite', the Elite logo, the Elite: Dangerous logo, 'Frontier' and the Frontier logo are registered trademarks of Frontier Developments plc. All rights reserved. All other trademarks and copyrights are acknowledged as the property of their respective owners.