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. :)

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

NOTE: Some of the details in this page have changed as of Elite: Dangerous 3.3, and will be updated at a future date.


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 always have less than 10 G of surface gravity. 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. Landing on high gravity worlds just requires patience, descending at shallow angles with a slow vertical drop. 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.

Ship    Slots¹       Utils       FSD   Scoop   ScoopRatio²   ScoopSec³   SC-360⁴      Pad    Jump
Adder 0   10.2   12   1 47 ly
Alliance Challenger 1   5.7   18   2 45 ly
Alliance Chieftain 1   5.7   18   2 51 ly
Alliance Crusader 1   5.7   18   2 42 ly
Anaconda 11  1   6.4   25   3 76 ly
Asp Explorer 1   5.7   12   2 65 ly
Asp Scout 1   5.2   10   2 54 ly
Beluga Liner 11  -1   14.6   19   3 56 ly
Cobra Mk.III 0   8.8   10   1 50 ly
Cobra Mk.IV 0   8.8   15   1 45 ly
Diamondback Explorer -1   14.6   14   1 68 ly
Diamondback Scout -1   17.0   10   1 43 ly
Dolphin 1   5.2   13   1 57 ly
Eagle 0   10.2   11   1 37 ly
Federal Assault Ship 0   8.7   12   2 46 ly
Federal Corvette 10  1   6.4   17   3 44 ly
Federal Dropship 1   5.7   18   2 41 ly
Federal Gunship 1   5.7   19   2 40 ly
Fer-de-Lance 1   5.2   18   2 41 ly
Hauler 1   5.1   11   1 37 ly
Imperial Clipper 2   4.0   13   3 52 ly
Imperial Courier 0   10.2   12   1 48 ly
Imperial Cutter 1   7.6   25   3 51 ly
Imperial Eagle 0   10.2   12   1 37 ly
Keelback 1   5.2   14   2 51 ly
Krait Mk.II 1   5.7   16   2 61 ly
Krait Phantom 1   5.7   16   2 66 ly
Mamba 1   5.2   18   2 37 ly
Orca 1   5.7   18   3 63 ly
Python 1   5.7   17   2 55 ly
Sidewinder 0   12.0   9   1 34 ly
Type-6 Transporter 1   5.2   14   2 56 ly
Type-7 Transporter 1   5.7   21   3 56 ly
Type-9 Heavy 10  2   4.8   31   3 45 ly
Type-10 Defender 1   7.6   30   3 50 ly
Viper 0   10.2   12   1 34 ly
Viper Mk.IV 0   8.8   14   1 48 ly
Vulture 1   5.2   11   1 38 ly

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. Slots = Number of unrestricted optional internal slots, as of 3.3.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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:

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