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Getting Started Exploration Navigation Modules Outfitting Ships Templates Scenery Glossary

Exploration for Beginners

When I first started playing Elite Dangerous, I knew that my eventual goal would be to explore deep space. While I had spent more time inside the human-occupied "bubble" than not, it had 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. However, Elite Dangerous has a very steep learning curve, and even the beginner content throws you to the wolves very quickly. Even highly experienced gamers will take time to learn all of the intricate details of this game and its universe.

With that in mind, I have 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. :)

This probably goes into a lot more detail than you are prepared for, so you may need to revisit this page more than once. Likewise, even seasoned veteran explorers can miss a variety of details, and therefore may find this page useful too. In fact, I'm sure I've missed some things, and I'm still picking up new things even after 1.5 million lightyears! And so I will add more as time goes on.

-CMDR Orvidius


Contents:


Getting started:


↑ Index

General Exploration:


↑ Index

Navigation and Maneuvering:


↑ Index

Ship Systems and Modules:


↑ Index

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". And in terms of earning potential, explorers are paid for scans, not by the lightyear traveled, meaning that the number of jumps is more important than the distance covered. 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.

When you have your ship assembled, something to consider is how well it handles high gravity environments, or very hot environments. The choice between Overcharged or Low Emissions power plant mods, and Clean Tuning vs Dirty Drives can be influenced by how far into the extremes you want to go.

High Gravity

All ships can land on high-gravity worlds. The game currently has a limit, in that landable worlds will almost always have less than 10 G of surface gravity, with very few exceptions. Anything above 3 G handles about the same. The reason for this is that Flight Assist cheats in your favor, allowing both the vertical and main thrusters to always provide a minimum of 5 m/s acceleration, even if they're technically too weak to do so. The same is not also true for lateral thrusters (when rolled side-to-side), or for flying upside-down (inverted), so you will want to avoid those maneuvers. Also be aware that it takes time for the thrusters to "ramp up" into this over-powered state, and so it can take a very long time to stop a descent, and it takes longer to get off the ground. If you let go of the thrusters, you may fall very quickly and be unable to recover. Landing on high gravity worlds just requires patience, descending at shallow angles with a slow vertical drop. Try to resist using the vertical thrusters on the way down, since flight assist will try to maintain altitude for you, and instead thrust forward with a shallow pitch of -10 degrees or less. If you want to test your ship before leaving the bubble, a good location is Achenar 3, at 6.73 G.

Extreme Heat

Most ships are capable of overheating when trying to jump or reenter supercruise too close to a star, such as after an emergency stop in its exclusion zone. However, planets can also provide a hostile environment in much the same way, if it is a hot world, or your ship doesn't manage its heat well while on thrusters. To test the limits of your ship's heat management while you're still in the bubble, you can go to Skardee 1, which orbits within the star's scooping zone. You can pull some hard turns while flying upside-down to intentionally heat the ship up, and see what it takes to overheat your ship. Note: Most ships can overheat here. Some will overheat quite quickly, while others will require you to work at it. You will rarely land in places that are this hot while exploring, so this sets an upper-bound on expectations.


↑ Index

Sample exploration templates, by ship:

I've assembled some sample configurations for many of the ships in the game, along with a "target" jump range for that configuration. Many of these jump ranges can be exceeded with a stripped-down build, however you will probably wish to sacrifice some jump range in order to add more equipment to your ship. Don't fret if your jump range is smaller than what is shown here. While they are basic builds, they also assume that you have all of the engineers unlocked and are willing to maximize each modification, as well as undersize several modules. It takes time, and resources, in order to fully optimize your ship. My suggestion is to alternate between exploring and improving your ship, so that neither activity gets stale. Hopefully this can guide your choice of the best exploration ships, to suite your taste.

For most of the templates below, I followed some simple rules for configuring these as examples:

Exploration Ships

Click on the ships below, for Coriolis builds. Columns can be sorted. Column key is below the table. Loadout rules are described above.

MT⁰   Ship   Jump   Slots¹    Utils    FSD   Scoop  ScoopR²   Sc.Sec³   SC-360⁴     Pad    SLY⁵     MS⁶   Score⁷
3 Adder 48 ly 0   10.2   12   1 336 0.87 60
3 Alliance Challenger 45 ly 1   5.7   18   2 315 0.08 156
3 Alliance Chieftain 52 ly 1   5.7   18   2 312 0.09 179
3 Alliance Crusader 42 ly 1   5.7   18   2 294 0.06 136
1 Anaconda 76 ly 12  1   6.4   25   3 912 0.14 599
1 Asp Explorer 65 ly 1   5.7   12   2 520 0.18 359
3 Asp Scout 55 ly 1   5.2   10   2 385 0.29 195
2 Beluga Liner 54 ly 12  -1   14.6   19   3 648 0.04 384
3 Cobra Mk.III 50 ly 0   8.8   10   1 400 0.21 194
3 Cobra Mk.IV 45 ly 10  0   8.8   15   1 450 0.16 190
1 Diamondback Explorer 68 ly -1   14.6   14   1 544 0.22 274
3 Diamondback Scout 43 ly -1   17.0   10   1 301 0.24 88
2 Dolphin 57 ly 1   5.2   13   1 513 0.32 247
3 Eagle 38 ly 0   10.2   11   1 228 0.55 35
3 Federal Assault Ship 46 ly 0   8.7   12   2 322 0.07 179
3 Federal Corvette 44 ly 11  1   6.4   17   3 484 0.03 283
3 Federal Dropship 41 ly 1   5.7   18   2 328 0.05 151
3 Federal Gunship 41 ly 1   5.7   19   2 246 0.05 106
3 Fer-de-Lance 41 ly 1   5.2   18   2 246 0.12 91
3 Hauler 43 ly 1   5.1   11   1 258 1.55 28
2 Imperial Clipper 52 ly 2   4.0   13   3 468 0.10 328
2 Imperial Courier 48 ly 0   10.2   12   1 384 0.87 70
2 Imperial Cutter 51 ly 10  1   7.6   25   3 510 0.03 303
3 Imperial Eagle 38 ly 0   10.2   12   1 228 0.55 34
3 Keelback 52 ly 1   5.2   14   2 364 0.21 182
2 Krait Mk.II 62 ly 1   5.7   16   2 558 0.15 368
1 Krait Phantom 66 ly 1   5.7   16   2 594 0.19 377
3 Mamba 41 ly 1   5.2   18   2 246 0.11 93
2 Orca 63 ly 1   5.7   18   3 567 0.17 347
2 Python 55 ly 10  1   5.7   17   2 550 0.12 344
3 Sidewinder 34 ly 0   12.0   9   1 204 0.81 16
2 Type-6 Transporter 57 ly 1   5.2   14   2 456 0.27 229
2 Type-7 Transporter 56 ly 10  1   5.7   21   3 560 0.13 321
2 Type-9 Heavy 45 ly 11  2   4.8   31   3 495 0.04 235
2 Type-10 Defender 49 ly 10  1   7.6   30   3 490 0.03 253
3 Viper 38 ly 0   10.2   12   1 228 0.53 35
3 Viper Mk.IV 48 ly 0   8.8   14   1 384 0.19 167
3 Vulture 38 ly 1   5.2   11   1 266 0.14 94

The displayed jump ranges are the unladen, fully fueled ranges. That is, the jump distance that would be used by the course plotter, as it assumes a full tank. And you are travelling without cargo, right? :)

Column key:

  1. Meta-Tier = Roughly the popularity for exploration. Tier "1" are the main exploration ships. Tier "2" have gained some popularity with explorers for a variety of reasons. Tier "3" is everything else.

  2. Slots = Number of unrestricted optional internal slots.

  3. ScoopRatio = Maximum scoop size relative to FSD size (For instance, "0" means they're equal). Higher is better.

  4. ScoopSec = Number of seconds of scooping per jump, at maximum scoop rate, assuming largest A-rated FSD and Fuel Scoops are installed. Lower is better.

  5. SC-360 = Number of seconds needed for completing a 360-degree circle in supercruise, using the pitch axis, at 50% throttle. Numbers are courtesy of marx from this thread, used with permission.

  6. Slot-Lightyears = Number of unrestricted optional slots multiplied by lightyear jump range. A simplistic measure of how much "stuff" you can bring over a given "distance".

  7. Mass Sensitivity = Change in jump-range when adding 1 ton of mass, based on the linked templates. Smaller is better, for bringing additional equipment. This sensitivity value will be reduced with each additional ton added. Lighter ships and smaller FSDs are more strongly affected by mass changes.

  8. Score = A simple calculation based on jump range, number of unrestricted optional internal slots, supercruise turn rate, scoop time per jump, and mass sensitivty. This score shouldn't be taken too seriously, since it is no substitute for more subjective aspects (such as how much you enjoy flying the ship), nor does it take into account the variety of different goals that individual explorers will have. It is at best a very crude measure of how much a ship can do.

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".



↑ Index

Scenic places to visit:


↑ Index

Glossary of Terminology and Abbreviations:

(work in progress)

  •AFMU=Auto Field Maintenance Unit.
  •AL=A less-used, more ambiguous equivalent to GGAL (Gas Giant with Ammonia-based Life).
  •AO=Ambient Occlusion, a graphics feature that renders shadows/shading in concave surfaces.
  •AspE=Asp Explorer (less common).
  •AspX=Asp Explorer (more common).
  •AW=Ammonia World.
  •AX=Anti-xeno. A class of weapons designed to combat the Thargoids.
  •Barycenter=The point in space that a binary pair of bodies will appear to orbit around.
  •Beagle Point=Star on the far opposite edge of the galaxy that used to be the furthest reachable from Sol. This is no longer true, but still serves as a common pilgrimage destination.
  •Body=Any natural orbital object, ranging from small moons and planets up to stars, black holes, etc.
  •Boxel=A subsector (of varying sizes) within a sector of space. The term comes from "pixel", but refers to a 3D cube of space. This usually refers to procedurally generated star systems with shared letter codes and mass codes, in the form "XX-X n", where "n" is the mass code.
  •Bubble=The Bubble is the main area of human occupied space, surrounding Sol. Until recently it was the only human occupied area of space, however in the last few years Colonia has grown into a smaller, mini-bubble of its own.
  •Buckyballing=Racing toward a destination at best possible speed. The name comes from the Buckyball Racing Club. Usually involves "jonking" while only partially scooping at most stars, and starting the hyperjump while still fuel scooping. The fuel scooping deficit is overcome by only occasionally scooping more deeply.
  •CFT=Candidate for Terraforming.
  •Colonia=Technically this is the name of a specific system about 22 kly away from the human occupied bubble, however the term also encompasses the entire nebula's inhabited systems surrounding the Colonia system.
  •Colonia Road=The path through space between the bubble and Colonia.
  •CQC=Close Quarters Combat (Arena) game mode.
  •CZ=Conflict Zone.
  •DBE=Diamondback Explorer.
  •DBS=Diamondback Scout.
  •DBX=Diamondback Explorer.
  •DSS=Detailed Surface Scanner, probe launcher used for mapping the surface of planets.
  •DW2=Distant Worlds 2 expedition, January-June 3305 (2019).
  •DWE=Distant Worlds [1] Expedition, 3302 (2016).
  •ED=Elite: Dangerous.
  •EDD=ED Discovery, a program for analyzing your game journals and tracking your activities and discoveries with EDSM, Inara, EDDB, etc.
  •EDDB=ED Database, a website (eddb.io) for searching data on bodies, commodities, stations, planets, systems, and more.
  •EDMC=ED Market Connector, a more lightweight program for tracking/sharing your activities and discoveries with EDSM, Inara, EDDB, etc.
  •EDSM=Elite Dangerous Star Map, a website (edsm.net) for community based cartography and sharing discoveries.
  •ELM=Earth-Like Moon. An Earth-like world that is a moon to another planet.
  •ELW=Earth-Like World.
  •Exclusion Zone=The area around a star or planet where you will be dropped out of supercruise.
  •Exploraconda=An exploration-outfitted Anaconda.
  •Explorca=An exploration-outfitted Orca.
  •FA=Flight Assist, automatic stability control.
  •FAO=Flight Assist Off, flying with flight assist disabled.
  •FAS=Federal Assault Ship.
  •FC=Fleet Carrier.
  •FDL=Fer-de-lance.
  •FDS=Federal Dropship.
  •FGS=Federal Gunship.
  •Fleetcomm=A Private Group used mainly for exploration and expeditions.
  •Fliving=A portmanteau of the words "flying" and "driving", referring to SRV driving while using the thrusters to mostly stay off the ground, in order to maintain speed.
  •FSD=Frame Shift Drive, which is used for both supercruise and hyperjumps.
  •FSS=Full Spectrum Scanner, which is used to manually discover (and tag) planetary bodies within a star system.
  •GG=Gas Giant.
  •GGAL=Gas Giant with Ammonia-based Life.
  •GGG=Glowing Green Giant (or Glowing Gas Giant).
  •GGGG=Glowing Green Gas Giant.
  •GGWL=Gas Giant with Water-based Life.
  •HazRES=Hazardous Resource Extraction Site.
  •High wake=Hyperjump to another star system, leaving behind a "High Wake".
  •HMC=High Metal Contentent world.
  •Honk=The sound made by the Discovery Scanner, also refers to use of the scanner itself.
  •Hyperdiction=An extension of "interdiction", which drops a ship out of a hyperjump, and can only be done by Thargoids.
  •Hyperjump=A jump from one star system to another, using the FSD.
  •Inara=A website (inara.cz) which maintains information on engineers and blueprints, material and resource locations, and more.
  •Interdiction=Forcing another ship out of supercruise, into normal space, using the FSD Interdictor module.
  •IOS=Inner Orion Spur.
  •Ishum's Reach=See Semotus Beacon.
  •Jonking=Jump-Honking. Traveling quickly without taking the time to scan anything beyond the initial discovery scanner "honk". Similar to "buckyballing" without the racing connotation.
  •Jump=Hyperjump, a jump from one star system to another, using the FSD.
  •Jumponium=Slang term for using materials for FSD injection synthesis. It can boost a single jump by 25%-100%.
  •KLY=Kilo-lightyear (thousands of lightyears)
  •Kylie=Pronounceable version of "kly"
  •Lagrange Cloud=A cloud of dust and other material that as accumulated at the L4/L5 lagrange points of an orbital body.
  •Lagrange Point=Locations of gravitational stability relative to a larger object's orbit. Most commonly, the L4/L5 points which are sustainably stable, 60 degrees to either side of the larger object's position in its orbit.
  •Low wake=Entering or exiting supercruise, leaving behind a "Low Wake".
  •LYR=Li Yong-Rui, one of the powerplay factions that you can pledge to, which will pay for exploration data with a 200% bonus. This comes with considerable risk of attack.
  •LZ=Landing Zone
  •Mass Lock=Nearby mass of planets, stars, stations, or other ships that prevents you from using the FSD. Other ships can only mass lock you against "low waking" (supercruise), and cannot prevent you from hyperjumping. Larger objects, such as stations and planets can prevent both.
  •Mobius PVE=A popular Private Group for PVE gameplay.
  •MR=Metal Rich.
  •MRW=Metal Rich World.
  •Neutron Highway=A method of relatively faster travel, using neutron star ejection cones to supercharge the FSD, within the galactic layers that are rich in neutron stars (+/- 1000 lightyears from the galactic plane).
  •NHSS=Non-Human Signal Source. These are usually Thargoid combat scenarios.
  •NSP=Notable Stellar Phenomena, usually Lagrange clouds, but can also be life-containing locations in planetary rings.
  •Open=The PVP-friendly (and "anything goes") game mode.
  •PG=Private Group.
  •PLC=Proto-Lagrange Cloud (a specific, more common NSP).
  •POI=Point of Interest.
  •PP=Power Plant.
  •PVE=Player-vs-Environment gameplay. Specifically, non-PVP play.
  •PVP=Player-vs-Player gameplay.
  •R2R=Road to Riches, a list of valuable worlds to scan for quick cash, both in and around the bubble.
  •Rebuy=Insurance premium to recover your ship if destroyed. Usually in reference to making sure you always have enough money to pay for it before flying.
  •Region=One of 42 subdivisions in the galaxy map, with names like "Inner Orion Spur" or "The Norma Arm", etc.
  •RES=Resource Extraction Site.
  •Sag-A*=Common ED abbreviation for Sagittarius-A* (pronouned A-Star), the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.
  •Salomé's Reach=See Semotus Beacon.
  •SC=Supercruise, the "warp speed" travel within a star system, using the FSD. Speeds range form 30 km/s to 2001c (2001 times the speed of light).
  •Scoop=Fuel scoop module.
  •Sector=A cube of space 1280 lightyears on each side, having its own procedurally generated name (such as "Eol Prou").
  •Semotus Beacon=Furthest reachable system from Sol, on the far opposite edge of the galaxy (in game as "Oevasy SG-Y d0").
  •SF=StellarForge, the software system that procedurally generates the entire galaxy and the bodies it contains.
  •Sgr-A*=Astronomy abbreviation for Sagittarius-A* (pronouned A-Star), the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.
  •SOI=Sphere of Influence, the area around a gravitational body where its local gravity is stronger than the other bodies in the system, and controls which body's space your position is relative to.
  •Sol=Our sun and solar System, containing Earth, Mars, etc.
  •Space Legs=A community slang term for the proposed first-person mode, allowing players to walk around the interior of their ships and/or other places.
  •Spansh=A website (www.spansh.co.uk) that will plot courses through known neutron stars. Disadvantages are that it will require a lot of copy/paste and manual plotting in-game, and all neutron stars will already be previously discovered (since it can only use known neutron stars).
  •SRV=Surface Recon Vehicle. Sometimes jokingly referred to as the Sudden Rotation Vehicle.
  •StellarForge=The software system that procedurally generates the entire galaxy and the bodies it contains.
  •Supercharge=FSD Supercharging uses a jet cone from a neutron star for a +300% range boost for a single jump, or +50% in the case of white dwarfs.
  •Supercruise=The "warp speed" travel within a star system, using the FSD. Speeds range from 30 km/s to 2001c (2001 times the speed of light).
  •Supression Zone=Usually refers to regions of the galaxy that lack specific types of main stars. For instance, the "bars" +/- 1000 lightyears centered on Sol, running through the middle of the galaxy that do not have neutron stars.
  •Synth=Ammo refills, FSD injection, and other functions provided by the ship's Synthesis panel.
  •Tag=A commander's name associated with a star or planet, either as "discovered by" or "mapped by".
  •TFC=Terraforming Candidate.
  •Trojan=Planets sharing the same orbit, 60 degrees apart, with the smaller one residing in the L4/L5 lagrange points of the larger body.
  •UC=Universal Cartographics, the service to which you sell your exploration and scan data.
  •USS=Unidentified Signal Source. These come in a varity of types and threat levels, as opportunities to pick up resources as debris, combat scenarios, and more.
  •VA=Voice Attack, a voice interface for use with ED. Voice packs available from HCS.
  •Wake=A temporary disturbance in space left behind by a ship that has used its FSD. They decay and dissapear after a few minutes, however can be scanned with a wake scanner to determine where the ship went. They come in two varieties, Low (supercruise) and High (hyperjump).
  •Witchspace=Old pilot slang for the alternate dimension that you see during hyperjumps.
  •WL=A less-used, more ambiguous equivalent to GGWL (Gas Giant with Water-based Life).
  •WW=Water World.
  •XA=Explorer's Anchorage, a space station near Sagittarius-A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. Many explorers favor this abbreviation over "EA" so as not to confuse it with something that destroys game franchises and studios.
  •XZ=Exclusion Zone (the area around a star or planet where you will be dropped out of supercruise).

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.