Elite: Dangerous – a comprehensive beginner’s guide

Last revised: 24 September 2018.


Let’s be honest, Elite: Dangerous (ED) doesn’t exactly go out of its way to explain things to players and as such it can be quite daunting to the newcomer, particularly those unfamiliar with the previous Elite games or space sims in general. I actually find this approach quite refreshing as for me it’s highly rewarding to figure out game mechanics for myself through a process of discovery and experimentation, but others may find this simply frustrating.

In light of this I thought I’d put together a guide for Commanders just starting out in Elite: Dangerous or those looking for a relatively simple resource for the game’s core mechanics. It’s broken down into sections that you can jump to using the contents list below. I will attempt to update the guide from time to time to reflect changes to the game.

I hope the guide is useful and I’m happy to answer any questions posted in the comments. Also please feel free to inform me of any errors, typos, glaring omissions, out of date info, or broken links. However, if you don’t like Elite: Dangerous or have issues with Frontier Developments, I totally respect that, but the comments section of this guide is not a place to vent your feelings.

  1. Useful resources to get you started
  2. Choosing a game mode
  3. Controls and general flight
  4. Normal flight fundamentals
  5. Docking
  6. Supercruise, interdiction, and low and high waking
  7. Hyperspace, FSD supercharging, and the galaxy map
  8. Ships, modules, and power management
  9. Combat, weapon and distributor fundamentals, and repairing damage
  10. Ship transfer and module storage
  11. Death and insurance
  12. Crime, punishment, and system security
  13. PvP, PvE and being interdicted/attacked by other players
  14. Reputation, rank, factions, and civil wars
  15. Making money early on and signal sources
  16. The endgame and career paths:
    1. a note on missions
    2. trading
    3. couriering, procurement and salvage
    4. bounty hunting
    5. assassin
    6. mercenary
    7. psychopath
    8. mining and collection drones
    9. exploration and fuel scooping
    10. pirating, smuggling, and silent running
    11. Taxi service and tour operator
    12. Wing missions
    13. Community Goals
  17. PowerPlay
  18. Elite Dangerous: Horizons expansion and Beyond
      1. Planetary flight and landing
      2. SRV basics
      3. Synthesis, materials, and materials traders
      4. Finding materials and POIs using the SRV wave scanner
      5. Using the SRV datalink scanner
      6. Surface missions
      7. Engineers
      8. Ship-launched fighters and NPC crew
      9. The Commander creator (Holo-Me)
      10. Multi-crew
      11. Technology Brokers

1. Useful resources to get you started

If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out the Elite: Dangerous community page, where you will find a series of tutorial videos, patch notes and a comprehensive old-school game manual in PDF format that does a good job of covering controls, HUD, flight, travel, combat and basic game mechanics/concepts.

Other excellent resources include the Elite Dangerous Wiki and Lave Wiki. It’s also worth signing up to the official forums as you will find a wealth of information and advice there, plus it’s the best place to keep yourself informed about any changes or additions to the game. Members are generally quite helpful if you have any questions, but always remember to do a search first before posting a query. Alternatively, there’s also the official Elite: Dangerous subreddit.

Also, there are two excellent sites for experimenting with ship loadouts: ED Shipyard and Coriolis. Both can be used to share loadouts with friends.

Other useful resources:

  • Galactic Academy — a Frontier-run Discord server/forum geared towards helping new players and finding friends to play with
  • Elite Dangerous Discord server — official Elite: Dangerous Discord server/forum, useful for finding friends, wings, clans, etc
  • Other Elite: Dangerous Discord servers — a fairly comprehensive list of public Elite: Dangerous-related Discord servers and communities
  • EDDB — unofficial online database that provides relatively up-to-date info on stations, factions and commodities – a great tool for planning trade routes and sourcing mission items and ship equipment
  • INARA — similar to the EDDB, but also provides detailed information on engineer access requirements, blueprints, and modification outcomes
  • Elite Dangerous Utilities — a collection of tools for finding interesting/fun systems as well as good mining and bounty hunting locations
  • Fuel rats — if you ever run out fuel, these guys are more than happy to help
  • The Git Guide to Trading in Open — video tutorial with some great tips for surviving in Open, which are of use to all playstyles, not just trading; it’s pretty funny too.

2. Choosing a game mode

Currently there are four main game modes, all of which are online. Every single person plays within the same persistent universe. There is no fully offline mode nor are there any plans to implement one. You can switch between these game modes at any time:

  1. Open Play – this “instances” you with up to 32 other players who happen to be present within the same star system; other players (i.e. Commanders) appear on you scanner as hollow markers.
  2. Private Group – only instances you with members of a private group (invitation only)
  3. Solo – effectively a single player mode. You will never be instanced with other players, but you do share the same universe (and therefore background simulation) as every other Elite: Dangerous player. It’s worth noting that this mode requires significantly less internet bandwidth than the other two.
  4. Arena –  a PvP only mode (previously branded CQC Championship) that is entirely independent of the main game – i.e. separate to the above three game modes.

3. Controls and general flight

Flight can be tricky at first, particularly if you have little experience of flight/space sims, but practice makes perfect. Before you do anything, it’s important to choose and configure a controller set-up that’s right for you. The best place to experiment (without risk) is within the in-game tutorials that can be found in the “Training Missions” menu – here you can learn how to dock, travel and dogfight. There are also tutorials related to mining, SRV driving and ship-launched fighters, while advanced combat scenarios can be found under “Challenge Scenarios”.


The training menu (accessed from the main menu) contains tutorials teaching you how to dock and the basics of space travel. There are also a variety of combat scenarios for you to learn how to dogfight and hone your skills and tutorials on things like mining. Click image for larger version.

Personally, I prefer to play the game on keyboard and mouse (kb/m) but you might want to consider using an Xbox controller or similar, or investing in a HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) joystick – these start at around £50-£60 (e.g. the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X), but the better ones can set you back up to £300-400, which is a pretty serious investment.

For those trying out kb/m, I’d definitely recommend setting pitch/yaw to mouse and roll to A and D. I’d also advise trying both relative mouse control on and off (I prefer relative on these days), playing about with mouse sensitivity/deadzone, and binding spacebar to pitch up (a neat trick I learnt from flying jets in the  Battlefield games). You’ll definitely want to configure key bindings to your own taste and as a guide I’ve listed my own below (any controls not stated are set to default):

Mouse controls:
mouse x-axis yaw
mouse y-axis pitch
Flight rotation:
roll left A
roll right D
pitch up space
Flight thrust:
thrust left Q
thrust right E
thrust up W
thrust down S
thrust forward mouse 4
thrust backward mouse 5
Flight throttle:
increase throttle + mouse wheel
decrease throttle – mouse wheel
throttle increments 10%
set speed to 0% 1
set speed to 25% 2
set speed to 50% 3
set speed to 75% 4
set speed to 100% 5
Flight miscellaneous:
disable flight assist z
engine boost tab
toggle frame shift drive J
enable frame shift drive to supercruise
toggle orbit lines O
select target ahead T
cycle next ship G
select highest threat H
cycle next hostile ship ]
cycle previous hostile ship [
select wingman 1 F1
select wingman 2 F2
select wingman 3 F3
select wingman’s target F5
wingman nav-lock F6
cycle next subsystem Y
cycle previous subsystem U
target next system in route P
primary fire mouse 1
secondary fire mouse 2
cycle next fire group N
deploy hardpoints backspace
firing deploys hardpoints off
silent running delete (toggle)
deploy heat sink V
use shield cell /
use chaff launcher C
Mode switches:
target panel 7
systems panel 9
sensors panel 8
quick comms 0
comms panel 6
open galaxy map M
open system map K


Don’t forget to back up the file containing your control settings! For the standard 64-bit Windows version, this can be found at: C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Frontier Developments\Elite Dangerous\Options\Bindings. I have no idea where this is stored on the Steam, Occulus, Mac or Xbox One versions!

Whether you use kb/m or a dedicated controller, I’d also recommend checking out Voice Attack, a neat app that allows you to bind keys to voice commands. It works surprisingly well and there’s a 21 day free trial available — it only costs $10 USD anyway. Plus it’s great if you’ve always fancied yourself as a bit of a Jean-Luc Picard. You can better train it to your voice using the Speech Recognition software in the Windows Control Panel.

4. Normal flight fundamentals

Normal flight is the low velocity flight mode (sub-light speed) you enter when you drop out of supercruise (jump to Supercruise, interdiction and low and high waking section). It is used for docking and landing on planets (Horizons expansion only), dogfighting, mining, and exploring points of interest — such as signal sources, navigation beacons, and asteroid fields. Basically, all the fun stuff.

Right, I’ll try to explain this as best as I am able!

Your ship has forward (main), reverse, lateral, and vertical thrusters; as well as thrusters for rotating the ship in three dimensions. These thrusters work in pairs to counter each other so, relative to your current orientation, you can accelerate forwards or backwards, left or right, up or down.

thrust directions

Thrusters work in pairs to accelerate (or decelerate) your ship relative to its current orientation. Click image for larger version.

For gameplay reasons, each direction has a maximum speed that can be reached (in m/s). This limit is determined by the ship you’re flying, your total mass, the rating of your thrusters and the number of pips you assign to the engines capacitor (jump to Combat, weapon and distributor fundamentals section).

The sweet-spot for manoeuvrability is 50% throttle (blue section on your speed indicator). Overall manoeuvrability is increased by putting more pips into engines. Yaw, which is turning the ship around its vertical axis (i.e. turning the nose left and right), has been deliberately limited in Elite: Dangerous. As such, yaw only allows for minor adjustments, so you will need to get used to using roll and pitch for turning — think WWII fighter planes or the X-wings/tie fighters from Star Wars.

rotation axis

Rotation. Your ship uses smaller thruster pairs to rotate around three different axis, allowing you to pitch, roll, and yaw. Apologies for my crap Photoshop annotations! Click image for larger version.

Boosting, applies a very large amount of forward thrust in a very short space of time, to quickly and temporarily accelerate your ship well beyond your normal maximum speed. Boosting drains the engines capacitor and generates a considerable amount of heat (jump to Combat, weapon and distributor fundamentals section), reducing its spamability.

With flight assist (FA) on, the default flight mode, the computer will maintain a constant forward or reverse velocity (as set by you) and will automatically counter any lateral or vertical acceleration applied by the pilot. So if you apply throttle to the right thrusters, you will start heading left. But as soon as you release the throttle, the computer will apply an equal amount of thrust in the opposite direction to restore a purely forward or reverse velocity. In a similar manner, the computer will stabilise the pitch, yaw and roll of the ship. This means that the ship’s velocity and orientation will always be one in the same, i.e. the ship is moving towards wherever you point the nose (or at least will always try to!).

With flight assist (FA) off, the computer will not counter your movements. So if you apply thrust to the right, you will keep heading left until you apply an equal of thrust to the left. If you roll the ship, you will keep rolling in that direction until you counter the movement. As such, it is much trickier and more laborious to control your ship with FA off. However, this means that the ship’s orientation can be different from its current velocity. Your current velocity is indicated by the direction and speed of the “space dust”.

FA off can be quite useful during a dogfight, allowing you to travel in one direction and shoot in another. It also potentially allows for quicker turning and a few fancy manoeuvres, which I won’t go into here. To learn more, check out Look Inverted’s Flight Assist On & Off video tutorials.

5. Docking

Docking is something you will need to become proficient at as you’ll be doing it constantly. Plus being able to enter a starport at speed is crucial to avoiding scans for criminal status and illegal cargo. You can buy a docking computing, but it wastes an internal slot. It’s also quite slow and a little bit wobbly, though you do get to listen to Strauss’ Blue Danube for a bit of classic Elite nostalgia. Once you’ve got the hang of the flight controls it’s really not that difficult.

Request docking permission (you can do so from ≤7.5km) via the contacts tab of the targets panel. You will be then designated a specific landing pad, the location of which will be indicated by the nav compass on your dashboard. There are three main types of port:

1. Starports. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the principal is always the same. You’ll probably be dealing with these the most. The entrance, often affectionately referred to as the “mail slot”, will usually be facing towards the planetary body the station orbits. When flying through the mail slot (on the green side), you will need to match its rotation — especially in larger ships. Once inside, your ship will automatically correct its orientation to match the rotation of the station. For extra fun, rotational correction can be turned off through the functions tab of the systems panel (you can also bind a key for this). And for those looking for a challenge, try combining this with FA off!

2. Orbital outposts and megaships. These are small orbital platforms on which you land on an exterior pad. They do not rotate. As such, they are generally easier and quicker to dock at. However, they often have fewer facilities available than at starports (check the system map for details).

3. Planetary settlements. Horizons expansion only. Landing at these is covered in Planetary flight and landing

During your approach, always watch for on-coming traffic (check your scanner as well), and don’t block the mail slot or loiter over other pads, otherwise you may land a fine or worse — stations resort to quite drastic measures when dealing with “blockages”!

When over a landing pad, your scanner will change to display a schematic of your ship relative to the pad. You need to line up the centre of your ship with the centre of the pad and then touch down. Your ship also needs to be facing forwards on your scanner — you can’t land if you’re facing the wrong way!

Remember to lower your landing gear first. Doing so also reduces your max speed and prevents you from accidentally boosting.

General tips:

  • lateral and vertical thrusters are your friends; use forward and reverse thrusters for minor adjustments
  • it’s generally not a good idea to boost inside the starport or when going through the slot
  • if you’re worried about collisions stick 4 pips to systems (i.e shields) and 2 pips to engines (you don’t need power to weapons when not fighting)
  • crashing into another ship while “speeding” (>100m/s) can land you a fine or even a murder bounty if you manage to destroy them
A Viper heads through the letterbox of a starport just ahead of my Cobra

Docking. Avoid costly collisions! Watch for traffic coming in and out of starports and resist the urge to boost through the mail slot. Click image for larger version.

6. Supercruise, interdiction and low and high waking

SC is the mechanism for travelling within star systems – distances to starports and points of interest (POIs) can be enormous (I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space). Trust me, you’ll be spending a lot of time in this mode. Essentially, it’s a faster-than light mode and works in similar a vein to normal flight with FA on, but with no reverse, lateral or vertical movement possible. Careful control of acceleration and deceleration (the computer assists you in both) is required in order not to overshoot your destination.

The trick to SC is following the “6-second rule”: lock onto your destination and set throttle to 100%, when you are 6-seconds away (or just before) drop it to 75%. This way you will never overshoot. When both lines are in the blue zones of the alignment scales in the target panel, the “Safe Disengage” message will appear above your scanner and pressing the SC key drops you at your destination.


The 6-second rule. As long as you set the throttle to 75% before or just on being 6 seconds from your destination you won’t overshoot. Especially important for asteroid rings! Click image for larger version.

Possible destinations are listed in the navigation tab of the systems panel and can be filtered by type. More information about planetary bodies, starports and the system, in general, can be viewed in the system map, which can be accessed via the navigation tab or through the galaxy map. Though I recommend setting up a hotkey for quick access.

Unidentified signal sources (USSs) will appear at random, though are more likely to occur in shipping lanes and near starports and planets (jump to Making money early on and signal sources section for more detail on these). Points of interest (POI) such as navigation beacons and resource extractions sites are permanent. Other POIs — such as conflicts zones, military checkpoints, distribution centres, etc — are dependent on the political and economic situation of the system, which will change over time.

General tips:

  • even with 0% throttle you will still be travelling at 30km/s
  • to safely disengage from SC you need to be travelling <1000km/s
  • you can perform an emergency stop (>1000km/s) at any time by double pressing the SC key, but this will cause damage to your ship and its modules
  • keep your distance from stars and planetary bodies, etc, as these will slow you down (bloody gravity!) and if you get too close your ship will automatically perform an emergency stop
  • orbital lines can be turned off in the functions tab of the system panel (you can also bind a key for this)
  • obscured destinations with appear as grey hashed circle in your HUD
  • the frame shift drive (FSD) is responsible for both SC and hyperspace jumps; however, you can set separate keys for both

Interdiction and low and high waking
Interdiction allows pilots to force other ships out of SC and into normal flight. It requires a special module, which is installed in an optional internal slot. This module needs to be assigned to a fire group and is activated using the relevant fire button, but first you must get close enough to your target and approach from behind. This triggers a mini-game where the aggressor has to remain on the tail of the target ship for success, whereas the victim can evade interdiction by remaining aligned with the escape vector. Be warned, pulling a clean ship out of SC will land you a 400cr fine (jump to Crime and punishment section).

A successful interdiction results in both ships taking damage and spinning out of control as they enter normal flight. The aggressor will also take damage and drop out of SC if they lose the battle, whereas a successful evader will carry on in SC unharmed. As a safer alternative to interdiction, you can follow ships in and out of SC by targeting and travelling to the low energy wakes they leave behind.

When being interdicted, you can “submit” by setting the throttle to 0%. This way you receive no damage, have full control of your ship when you drop out, and the FSD cooldown timer will be much reduced. More importantly, it leaves you in a much better position for both fighting and fleeing. When fleeing from a larger ship, it is always much quicker/safer to hyperspace jump to a new system (known as high waking), especially if you are unable to outrun your aggressor. This is because larger ships will mass lock you when you attempt to transition to SC, significantly increasing the time it takes for your FSD to charge. This does not happen for hyperspace jumps.

Interdiction is a way to pull ships out of SC and requires a special module. The interdictor has to remain on the tail of the target ship for success; the target can evade interdiction by remaining aligned with the escape vector. It’s a battle of the blue and red power bars (here I’m successfully escaping interdiction)

Interdiction is a way to pull ships out of SC and requires a special module. The aggressor has to remain on the tail of the target ship for success, whereas the target can evade interdiction by remaining aligned with the escape vector. It’s a battle of the blue and red power bars (here I’m successfully escaping interdiction). Click image for larger version.

7. Hyperspace, FSD supercharging, and the galaxy map

Hyperspace is the mechanism for jumping from one system to another. The distance you can jump is dependent on the type of ship and its total mass, frame shift drive (FSD) class/rating, and available fuel. Upgrading or engineering your FSD, installing lighter modules, carrying less fuel, and emptying your cargo hold can significantly increase jump range.

Journeys are planned through the galaxy map, but you can also select nearby systems quickly via the bottom of the navigation tab. The galaxy map allows you to plot multi-jump routes of up to 10,000LY. Remember to select between economical and fastest route computation via the route tab; it’s far more fuel efficient to perform multiple short jumps than a single long-distance jump, but doing so will dramatically increase journey time.

When plotting a route: a solid line indicates you have enough fuel to make the jump, whereas a dashed line means you have insufficient fuel (see screenshot below). If you have a fuel scoop, the plotted route will also indicate the last scoopable star.

Galaxy map route plotting

Galaxy map. The brown line shows a multi-jump route that I’ve plotted on the galaxy map. I have enough fuel to complete the solid part of the route line but will need to acquire more fuel for the dashed section. You can choose between fastest or economical routes – it’s more fuel efficient to perform multiple short-distance hyperspace jumps than a single long-distance jump. Click image for larger version.

The galaxy map also features a search function, is also able to display trade routes (jump to trading section), and can filter systems by things like allegiance, economy, government, state, security, station services, trade data availability, and star class. These filters can be applied to the route plotter in real time. You will also be informed of a system’s security, economic state and star class on your HUD just prior to jumping. And don’t forget to bookmark your favourite systems!

It is important to properly plan your journeys, especially if you have a small fuel tank. For long trips, you may want to consider installing a fuel scoop (jump to exploration section). Oh, and don’t try to super cruise from one system to another; it’s not actually possible and you will run out of gas trying. If you do ever run out of fuel and get stranded, don’t hesitate to contact the Fuel Rats. These selfless heroes will dispatch a ship to refuel you and get you back on your way.

General tips:

  • it’s worth setting a hotkey for quick access to the galaxy map (M is a great choice!!!);
  • jumps can be cancelled, up until the drive finishes charging, by pressing the relevant key a second time
  • an FSD cooldown timer will appear underneath the fuel indicator after jumping
  • your ship will heat up while the FSD is charging so you may need to allow your ship to cool between successive jumps or move away from that giant ball of fire you’re orbiting (jump to Combat and weapon fundamentals section)
  • you don’t get mass locked by other ships when hyperspace jumping (high waking), but you do when transitioning to SC (low waking); therefore if being chased by a hostile, it is usually quicker/safer to jump to a new system than enter SC
  • with a wake shift scanner, you can analyse high energy wakes to follow pilots through hyperspace

Supercharging your FSD
If you’re feeling brave, you can attempt to “supercharge” your FSD at white dwarfs and neutron stars, a process that can potentially triple the range of your next jump. Be warned, it’s risky and it will cause minor damage to your FSD. If it goes wrong you could also seriously damage or destroy your ship. You also need an active fuel scoop.

To begin the process, simply head into one of the polar jets while in SC. You’ll be warned that your FSD is operating beyond safety limits and your ship will become difficult to control. It takes a little while, but you’ll be notified when the supercharge is complete. Leave the polar jet and then check the galaxy map to see what the range of your next jump will be.

The trick is to fly slowly and remain as far from the star as possible. If you drop out of SC, your ship will start spinning out of control, heating up and taking damage. Without a stack of heat sinks, you’ll be lucky to survive. White dwarfs seem to provide around a 50% boost and neutron stars around 300%.

You can also boost a single jump by up to 100%, if you have the right materials, using the FSD injection function in the synthesis menu (Horizons only, jump to Synthesis and materials section). However, the supercharging and FSD injection processes cannot be combined, that would just be silly!


FSD supercharging 1. Behold the destructive beauty of the white dwarf! To supercharge you need to head into one of those wavy polar jet thingys, but make sure you keep your distance from the star. Click image for larger version.


FSD supercharging 2.Once you’re inside the jet, you’ll receive this warning and the supercharging process will begin automatically (assuming you have an active fuel scoop). You’ll also get buffeted around a lot.


FSD supercharging 3. You receive this message when the process is complete. Time to get out of there, ASAP!


d FSD supercharging 4. If you get too close to the star, you will drop out of SC and start taking serious damage as well as heating up. Don’t worry, thanks to a stack of heat sinks, I managed to survive.

8. Ships, modules, and power management

New ships are purchased via shipyards and new modules via the outfitting menu. Note that these facilities are not always present at smaller outposts (check the system for details) and that the availability of ships and modules varies considerably from system to system. Generally, high populations systems with a high-tech economy are your best bet. However, Sola Prospect in the Brestla system and the Jameson Memorial in the Shinrarta Dezhra system (permit required) always stock all ships and modules.

When buying a new ship or module, you will be given the choice to either store or part exchange the old one (jump to Ship transfer and module storage section). You can experiment with different ships and module loadouts using the online tools at ED Shipyard and Coriolis. Before buying and outfitting a new ship, it’s important to think what do you actually want to do with it. Some ships are dedicated fighters (Eagle, Viper, Vulture, etc), others dedicated haulers (e.g. Hauler, Type-6, Keelback). Some are better equipped for exploration (e.g. Diamondback and Asp variants), some perform well as multi-role ships (e.g. Adder, Cobra, Imperial Courier). Multi-role ships are well suited to things like mining, pirating, and taking on a variety of missions, or just generally being a jack of all trades.

Modules are broken down into several main categories:

  • hardpoints – weapon systems
  • utility mounts – scanners, counter measures and shield boosters
  • core internal – essential components such as thrusters, power plant, FSD, bulkheads, etc
  • military compartments – a subset of core internal and only available on some ships, these provide additional slots specifically for hull and module reinforcement packages and shield cell banks
  • optional internal – shields, cargo racks, fuel scoops, limpet controllers, etc
  • livery – cosmetic and naming features (i.e. skins, decals, name plates and bobble heads) for your ships and auxiliary vehicles; most of these must be purchased (for real money) from the Elite: Dangerous store.

Modules and module slots come in different sizes, with class 1 being the smallest (and lightest) and class 8 the largest (and heaviest). Larger slots are compatible with smaller modules. In general, modules are also rated A to E, with A being the best and most expensive and E being the cheapest and least effective. And, within a specific class, B-rated modules are always the heaviest and D-rated the lightest; A,C and E will all have the same mass.

Note that this rating system does not apply to all module types. For instance, all cargo racks are E rated and hardpoints are rated according to size and targeting system (jump to Combat and weapon fundamentals section).

Module power management
Each ship has a total power capacity based on the output of its power plant and bigger and better modules need more juice. If this capacity is exceeded then modules will be turned off automatically according to the priority set (1-5) in the modules tab of the system panel (see screenshot below). Modules assigned a lower priority (higher number), will be switched off first. You can also choose to manually deactivate modules not currently in use. Don’t forget to turn them back on when needed and remember that most modules have a bootup time.

As weapons and scanners only require power when deployed, it is possible to exceed the total capacity of your power plant (within reason) with careful management and planning. For instance, modules such as the FSD, interdictor, fuel scoop, cargo hatch, etc, are not used during combat, so by assigning them a low priority, they will be automatically disabled when you deploy hardpoints, freeing up the power needed for your weapon systems.


Module power management.

Module power management. Weapons and scanners only use power when deployed. By disabling modules unused during combat you are able to exceed your total power capacity. This will be managed automatically by the ship’s computer if you assign modules a power priority in the system panel – higher numbers (i.e. lower priority) will be switched off first. Here my cargo hatch, FSD, interdictor, and fuel scoop have been shut off while my hardpoints are deployed. Click image for larger version.

9. Combat, weapon and distributor fundamentals, and repairing damage

You will generally want to avoid combat until you can afford some more effective weapons/modules or a better ship. You certainly won’t want to take on anything bigger than a Cobra in your Sidewinder, or ships working together in a wing. That said solitary NPC ships are generally not very challenging and you’re not really losing anything if your free Sidewinder gets wrecked (jump to Death and insurance section). Be aware that the skill of NPC pilots and the strength of their loadout correlates directly with their combat rank (list of pilot federation ranks); however, low ranking Commanders are less likely to encounter high-ranking NPCs.

Generally, to destroy another ship, you need to knock out its shield and reduce the hull integrity to 0%. Ideally, you want to be on your opponents tail as much as possible; throttle control is very important, once you get on a target’s tail you need to closely match their velocity in order to stay there.

Fire groups
To use weapons and scanners, they must first be assigned to a fire group via the systems panel. However, some counter measures can be given a hotkey and therefore don’t actually need to be assigned to any fire group to be used. For each fire group you can set individual weapons or utilities to either primary fire, secondary fire or none. Multiple groups can be created and these are cycled through sequentially when you press the fire group key. Current weapon groupings are displayed on your HUD if your hardpoints are deployed.


Fire groups. Here I’ve set up two fire groups. In the first group, my turreted pulse lasers and canons are set to primary fire and my gimballed multi-cannons to secondary. In the second group, my collector limpet controller has been set to primary fire. Conveniently, switching between these allows me to disable my turrets. Click image for larger version.

Combat loadouts
Weapons are installed at hardpoints and are rated by size/class – small (class 1), medium (class 2), large (class 3), huge (class 4). Generally, larger weapons do greater damage and penetration, but cost more, require extra power, generate additional heat and put a bigger drain on your distributor. Utility mounts are used for installing scanners, counter measures, shield boosters and heat sinks. For further details about weapon and utility types, classes and ratings see Lave Wiki’s weapons guide.

In terms of weaponry, lasers are best for taking down shields, but overheat more quickly than kinetic weapons. Burst and beam lasers have a higher DPS (damage per second) than pulse lasers, but require more power and cooling, and will heat up your ship more quickly. Projectile/kinetic-based weapons (e.g. multicanons, canons, fragment cannons) will wreak havoc on an unshielded hull, but require ammo and have a travel time (you need to lead targets – the HUD will show you where to aim). Ideally you want a combination of both weapon types.

Rail guns and plasma accelerators are more specialist weapons, effective for both shields and hull, but are generally expensive; they have limited ammo, longish reload times, high power consumption, produce a lot of heat, and require practice for effective use. Missiles are good for targeting subsystems but are expensive, limited by small ammo capacities, and can be thwarted by countermeasure (see below). Mines are more of a defensive option and useful for hindering pursuers.

Fixed, gimballed or turreted?
Many weapon types also come in fixed, gimballed and turreted flavours and this affects how they are aimed and used. Fixed weapon variants must be aimed manually, essentially by pointing the nose of your ship at the target (or slightly leading them if using kinetic weapons). Note that, depending on the hardpoint placement on your ship, your weapons may not all converge to a single point.

Gimballed variants are semi-automated and auto track targets within a limited radius, meaning all you have to do is get the target in front of you and press fire. These are very useful on less nimble ships or those with less effective hardpoint placement or convergence. However, they do reduced damage per hit compared to their fixed counterparts and some gimballed variants have increased distributor draw or reduced clip sizes and/or increased reload times. They’re also less reliable at range and their ability to target accurately can be temporarily disrupted by chaff.

Turreted weapons are fully automated and have a wide targeting arc, allowing them to also engage enemies that are not directly in front of you. But they have the least damage and accuracy of the three and are also affected by chaff. They are more of a defensive solution and better suited to large ships with numerous hardpoints. Turrets must be assigned to a fire group and are activated by pressing fire once. If you switch to a fire group in which the turrets are not present, they will stop firing. They can be set (via the “functions” tab of the systems panel) either to only engage your current target (“target only”) or to engage any hostile target in range (“fire at will”). Setting them to “forward fire” effectively turns them into fixed, manually-fired weapons.

Utilities and countermeasures
These modules are installed in a utility mount slot. Scanners must be assigned to a fire group and are fired like weapons. Countermeasures can be assigned to a fire group or activated by a hotkey.

  • kill warrant scanner – scans target for bounties linked to the current jurisdiction’s superpower allegiance
  • manifest scanner – scans target for cargo
  • wake scanner – scans high wakes to determine jump destination
  • chaff – temporarily disrupts targeting of gimbals and turrets and possibly missiles, requires ammo
  • ECM – breaks missile locks and counters limpets, 10 second cooldown
  • heat sink – temporarily dissipates all heat from the ship, requires ammo
  • shield booster (passive) – strengthens shield by a set percentage and stack additively; fill unused slots with the highest rated you are capable of powering and can afford
  • point defence turrets (passive) – attempt to shoot down incoming missiles and hatch breakers, require ammo; these do not need to be deployed or assigned to a fire group

Distributor management
The secret to dogfighting is good power distribution management. Firing your guns drains the weapons capacitor, replenishing your shield drains the systems capacitor and boosting drains the engines capacitor. There is a total of 6 pips to be allocated between the three capacitors; a max of 4 pips can be placed in any one. Allocating more pips increases the recharge rate of that capacitor.

So for sustained firing you will need to put more pips into weapons. If you’re under fire, putting more pips into systems will significantly strengthen your shields, though this has no effect on replenish or reactivation rate (unless the capacitor empties). If you’re in pursuit or trying to make a hasty retreat you will need to put more pips into engines – this increases your max speed, manoeuvrability and boost recharge rate.

power distribution

Power distribution. When in combat always keep an eye on the power distributor (lower right). There is a total of 6 pips to be allocated between systems, engines and weapons; a max of 4 pips can be placed in any category. Here I have 3 in systems, 1.5 in engines and 1.5 in weapons. I have no power left for my weapons, so I need to put more pips into that capacitor to increase the recharge rate. Click image for larger version.

Shields and SCBs
Shields slowly replenish when not being hit. Once the shields are down, they will take a while to reboot and come back online; the bigger the shields, the longer this will take. Shields reactivate and replenish twice as fast when in SC, and even quicker when docked. Knocked out shields can now be “bump-started” by running the reboot/repair sequence in the functions panel, significantly reducing downtime. However, this is of no use during combat scenarios as you need to be travelling <50m/s and must avoid being hit for it to work. Shields will also protect you from collisions.

Shield cell banks (SCBs), installed in an optional internal slot, can partially or fully restore active shields in a short space of time. But they also generate significant heat when triggered (that can damage your modules) so you may need to also simultaneously deploy a heat sink. You can install multiple SCBs – keep one activated in the modules tab and switch between them as they run out of “ammo”.

Module damage, targeting subsystems and heat
Once a ship’s shields are down, modules will start taking damage if directly hit. In fact, specifically targeting subsystems (either via the “sub-targets” tab of the targets panel or cycling through them using a hotkey) can be a very effective tactic. Damaged modules have a chance of malfunctioning and if completely destroyed will cease to function altogether. For instance, disabling drives will leave them stranded; whereas taking out the powerplant halves their power output, which can potentially leave them stranded and/or defenceless. Knocking out the powerplant also has a small chance of instantly destroying the ship.

However, this applies to your own ship as well, which is why it’s very risky to continue fighting after your shields go down (know when it’s time to do a Sir Robin!). Also, if your canopy is shot out, you’ll switch to emergency life support and lose some HUD functionality. With only an E-rated life support module, that gives you just five minutes to get to a starport. Note that if you have Horizons, with the required materials, you can actually synthesise oxygen to top up your life support (jump to Synthesis and materials).

Modules also take damage from excessive heat. This can be from getting too close to a star, being attacked by certain engineer-modified weapons, boosting too much, and the heat generated from firing your own guns. You will receive a warning when close to the temperature damage threshold; beyond this internal modules will start taking damage, increasing the chance of malfunction. One way to counter this is by popping a heat sink.

Repairing your ship in space
You ship and its modules can take a lot of damage and still be fully functional. Generally though, you will still want to head to the nearest starport and get it fixed pronto. However, ship modules can also be repaired in space using an auto field-maintenance unit (AFMU). The AFMU is a module itself and takes up a utility slot. It consumes “ammo”, takes time to do its job and temporarily disables the target module. It’s activated in the module power management tab and is fairly straight forward to use. It cannot repair the power plant, nor can it repair the hull or canopy. However, if you have two AFMUs, they can be used to repair each other. AFMUs are not so useful for combat-orientated ships but they can come in handy for long exploration expeditions.

To repair the hull/canopy you need repair limpets. These work in much the same way as collection and fuel limpets (jump to mining and collection drones). They require a repair limpet controller (utility slot), a supply of programmable limpets (which take up cargo space) and must be assigned to a fire group. When launched, they will slowly repair the target vessel. If no target is selected, they will fix your own ship. Once again, these are of little use during combat and generally more suited to intrepid explorers.

If your thrusters or FSD get destroyed and you don’t have an AFMU, then you’re pretty much up shit creek without a paddle. However, as a last desperate measure, you can run the emergency repair sequence (“reboot/repair” in the functions tab), which will cannibalise non-essential modules in order to fix your drives. This will take a little time and you will be entirely at the mercy of any hostiles. Failing that, you can always self-destruct 🙂

10. Ship transfer and module storage

Ship transfers
It is possible (and fun) to own multiple ships (up to 30 per station I believe) and these can be stored, free of charge, at any starport or settlement with a shipyard. For a fee, it is possible to request the transfer of a remote ship to the port you’re currently docked at. The cost and duration (in real time) of this procedure is dependent on ship type and distance, and can get quite expensive and lengthy. Generally, it will be quicker to fly it yourself. If money is an issue and you want all your ships in one place, then you can always purchase a cheap ship as a taxi and sell it when you switch to the stored ship. It is also possible to sell stored ships remotely.


Ship transfer Stored ships can be reviewed from any shipyard. Requesting a transfer to the current station costs time and money, which are dependent on ship type and distance. You can also sell ships remotely. Click image for larger version.

Module storage and transfers
In a similar manner, it also possible to store up to 120 modules. This is particularly useful for changing or trying out new loadouts, especially if your modules have been modified by an engineer (Horizons expansion only, jump to Engineers section). When purchasing a new module you will be given the choice to either store or part exchange the old one (if present). When you select an installed module in the outfitting menu, the “Transfer Options” drop-down allows you to store it or you can swap it with either another installed module (“Swap”) or one presently stored at that station (“Transfer”).


Storing modules 1. When selecting an installed module in the outfitting menu, click on “Transfer Options” to expand it and see the module storage and exchange options. Click image for larger version.

All your stored modules can be reviewed via the outfitting menu, where it is also possible to select and store multiple non-essential modules from your current ship – essential modules include things like cargo racks that are in use, your powerplant and thrusters.


Storing modules 2. Stored modules can be reviewed, switched and transferred via the outfitting menu. In the left panel, you can see I’m currently storing a cargo rack (exciting stuff!). “Store Multiple” allows you to store any non-essential module from your current ship. Click image for larger version.

Remotely stored modules can also be transferred to your current station. Like ship transfers, this takes time and money, dependent on type and distance.


Module transfer. You can request transfer of remotely stored modules via the outfitting menu. This takes time and costs money, dependent on module type and distance. Click image for larger version.

11. Death and insurance

Good news: there’s life after death — brace yourself: it’s just a game, you’re not actually Jesus. Following ship destruction you’ll magically respawn at either a nearby starport or the last one you docked on. You’ll be given the option to buy back your old ship plus upgrades for a fraction of the total cost (around 5%). If you can’t afford this, or choose not to pay this, then it’s back to the free Sidewinder. Bad news is you lose all cargo, exploration data, bounty claims and combat bonds. Materials and any stored ships or modules will be safe.

Your current rebuy cost is displayed in the status tab of the systems panel. I can’t stress this enough: always make sure you keep at least this amount in reserve. Ideally, two or three times this in case you have a run of bad luck. You’ll also still need to be in a position to purchase cargo, fuel and munitions following respawn. However, if you can’t afford the insurance fee, the game does offer a loan of up to 600,000cr (more if you increase any of your Pilot’s Federation ranks) to enable you to buy back your old ship. If you do take this option, 10% will be deducted from all credits you make until the loan is paid back.

Here you can see that if I die it will cost 231,817cr to rebuy my heavily-upgraded Cobra

Rebuy cost. Here you can see that if I die it will cost 231,817cr to buy back my heavily-upgraded Cobra. This is the absolute minimum amount of credits I should keep in reserve. Click image for larger version.

12. Crime, punishment and system security

It’s not very difficult to get on the wrong side of the law in Elite: Dangerous. You can receive a fine for simply loitering inside a starport, flying recklessly, or accidentally discharging your weapons within a no-fire zone. More serious crimes, such as assaulting or murdering clean ships, result in a bounty being issued and you will become wanted.

You can also receive a “reckless weapons discharge” fine for friendly fire during dogfights, i.e. accidentally hitting a clean ship that’s not your current target. Repeated offences against the same target will result in you being given an assault bounty. This is something to be aware of when bounty hunting in busy locations.

Criminal status
Criminal status is subject to the jurisdiction, so you’ll only ever be wanted whenever you travel through space controlled by a faction that has issued a bounty against you — the word “wanted” will appear above your fuel gage in the bottom right corner of your screen. There can be multiple jurisdictions in any one system. A wanted status is a green light for anyone to legally attack you including NPC bounty hunters, authority ships, and other players. However, you can not be lawfully attacked for simply have a fine.

Current bounties and fines can be reviewed under the transactions tab, whereas those relevant to the current system will be displayed under “reputation” in the status tab. Be aware that random scans are performed on ships entering and leaving starports, so if you are caught with a criminal status you’ll be vaporised before you can say “bollocks” (jump to Pirating, smuggling, and silent running section).

wanted status

Wanted status. If you’re flying a hot ship that’s wanted in the jurisdiction you’re flying through then a red “wanted” sign will appear just above the fuel gage. You’re criminal status is also displayed under reputation in the status tab of the systems panel. Click image for larger version.

All fines and bounties are attached to the ship you committed the offence in — the ship and all its modules become “hot” (“It weren’t me officer, it was the ship that done it! I’m telling ya, that thing is evil, pure evil!”). By switching to another ship, you leave behind all fines and bounties associated with it until you swap back again.

If your ship accrues five or more bounties issued by factions affiliated with the same superpower, a superpower bounty will be issued. This means that your ship will be hot in all systems aligned to that superpower. Also:

  • hot modules can be stored, but cannot be transferred to a clean ship
  • stored hot modules can be cleaned for a fee at any port
  • hot ships can still be transferred, but at a greater cost and not to anywhere it would be wanted
  • hot ships and modules can be sold at a greatly reduced value (25% of the normal sell value)
  • unpaid fines never turn into bounties
  • fines and bounties never expire
hot modules

Hot modules are indicated by a red justice symbol. The can still be stored, but cannot be transferred to a clean ship. Stored hot modules can be cleaned in any port for a fee. Click image for larger version.

As well a a bounty, players also receive a notoriety rating for killing other ships. This is a value between 0 and 10 that increases by 1 with each new murder, but decreases by 1 for every two hours of goody-two-shoes behaviour (active gameplay not real time). Notoriety is linked to the player and not the ship.

The higher your notoriety, the higher the value of the bounty on you will be — this is based on a fraction of your ship’s rebuy cost. It becomes more complicated if you kill another Commander (as opposed to an NPC). For each notoriety point, your bounty will increase by 10% of the difference of your respective rebuy costs. If the victim’s rebuy cost is lower than yours, then the increase will be zero. Apparently, this is to discourage Commanders with large ships attacking those with smaller ones.


You can see your current notoriety under the statistics section of the status tab. Notoriety is linked to the player and not the ship. Here you can see my notoriety is 10. Looks like I’ve been a little naughty… Click image for larger version.

Power bounties
The bounty system is different for crimes perpetrated in a Powerplay context (jump to PowerPlay section). Murder or assault committed between Commanders pledged to separate powers will result in power bounties instead of normal ones. These can only be detected and claimed by Commanders pledged to the issuing power. Authority ships will ignore power bounties. Power bounties do not affect your docking privileges. Presently, due to some issues with the system, FD are allowing power bounties to be paid off at the Interstellar Factors (see below). Power bounties are also cleared when you leave or defect from a power.

Docking with a hot ship and paying off fines and bounties
When flying in a hot ship, you’ll have reduced privileges when docking at a port in a jurisdiction in which you’ve unpaid fines and bounties. You will still have access to security contacts, refuelling, the black market and active missions, but all other services will be unavailable, including repairs. If you only have fines, these can be paid off at the security contact to immediately restore full access.

However, bounties must be paid off at an Interstellar Factors Contact. This can only be done so if your notoriety is zero and in a jurisdiction where your ship is not wanted. Clearing all associated bounties removes the hot status from your current ship and all its fitted modules.

Paying off bounties at the Interstellar Factors contact

Bounties can only be cleared at an Interstellar Factors Contact when your notoriety has decreased to zero and in a jurisdiction where you ship is not wanted. The IF can be found in low security and anarchy systems (use the galaxy map filter to locate). Click image for larger version.

The Interstellar Factor Contact can only be found in low security and anarchy systems (use the filter on the galaxy map to find). They can also be used to pay off fines and collect bounty claims or combat bonds that relate to any system or jurisdiction, for a 25% commission, of course.

Crime and death
If you’re flying a hot ship through a jurisdiction where you are wanted and get destroyed by someone (NPC or human) who has detected your criminal status, you will respawn at the issuing faction’s nearest Detention Centre. You will then need to pay off any bounties or fines relevant to that jurisdiction on top of your rebuy cost. If you have outstanding fines and bounties in other jurisdictions, these will remain active and your ship and modules will still be hot.

criminal rebuy

Criminal rebuy screen. If you’re killed in a jurisdiction where you’re wanted, you’ll respawn at the nearest detention centre owned by the faction that issued the bounty. On top of your rebuy cost, you’ll be forced to pay off all fines and bounties relevant to that jurisdiction. Click image for larger version.

System security and the ATR
There are four levels of system security: high, medium, low, and lawless/anarchy. This relates to the amount of time it takes for the authorities to respond to a crime. So if you get attacked in a high security system, the cavalry will appear on the scene fairly quickly (10 seconds), but will take ages to show up in a low security system (four minutes). There is no rule of law in anarchy systems and therefore no police response at all.

As such, some systems are far safer to travel through than others, while those wanting to indulge their violent misanthropic fantasies will fare better in low security and anarchy systems. By disabling “report crimes against me” (in the functions tab), the cops will not show up at all if you get attacked, which can be useful is you’re wanted or carrying illegal goods. However, they’ll still turn up if you start wasting clean ships. There’s also no police response at hazardous resource extraction sites or compromised navigation beacons, though any crimes you commit will still be recorded.

Commanders on a murder spree may find themselves having to deal with Advanced Tactical Response (ATR) ships. Like some kind of intergalactic SWAT team, these are bad-ass authority ships packing some serious fire power. These guys will show up if you commit enough crimes in a single jurisdiction; the trigger threshold is related to the system security level. They will continue to respond to any crimes you commit until you leave the system.

13. PvP, PvE and being interdicted/attacked by other players

The Elite galaxy is a very big place and not everyone plays in Open, so outside of popular destinations and concentrated pockets of inhabited space, encounters with other Commanders tend to be relatively infrequent.

Other players will show up on your scanner as a hollow cube. If you do see someone, don’t panic – most will totally ignore you and leave you to go about your business in peace. Others may greet you or even initiate a little friendly chit-chat. However, you may occasionally encounter players who will attempt to interdict and/or attack you.

PvP (player vs player) is a legitimate and fun part of the game, and there are several reasons why another Commander might wish to engage you:

  • You have an active bounty
  • Your PowerPlay allegiance
  • Piracy
  • Various roleplaying reasons
  • You’re fighting on the opposite side in a conflict zone
  • They’re looking for a dogfight

As with all online games, they’re some players who are just out for cheap lolz and will specifically target new players and other vulnerable prey for easy kills. Unfortunately, the current crime and punishment implementation lacks teeth and provides little deterrent for wannabe murderers.

If you do get interdicted or attacked, you have three main options: fight back, comply with any demands they make, or leg it.

Fighting back
PvP combat is a whole different ball game to fighting NPCs. PvPers tend to fly around in dedicated combat-ships fitted for the sole purpose of fighting other Commanders. With the right weapons and Engineer modifications, they can potentially disable or destroy even the biggest and most heavily-shield ships very quickly. Succeeding at PvP not only requires the right ship and loadout, but also knowledge of more advanced flight manoeuvres, tactics and whatever the current metagame is.

As a beginner, it’s probably best well avoided until you have more experience and knowledge of the game, especially if you don’t have a lot of cash to spare or the time to sink into Engineer modifications.

Complying with their demands (if any)
Sometimes players will make demands of you. Bounty hunters and pirates will typically order you to cut your engines and stow your weapons while they scan you for active bounties or tasty cargo. The latter may then demand some or all of what you’re carrying. Generally, if you’re good boy or gal, they’ll let you leave in one piece. If you’re in a slow and cumbersome ship or they’re in a wing, this is probably going to be your best hope of not seeing the rebuy screen.

Some players will frag you no matter what and if you’re outnumbered or not properly equipped for a fight, then your only choice is to skedaddle promptly (i.e. flee)!

If you’re feeling confident, you could try to win the interdiction battle (jump to Supercruise, interdiction, and low and high waking). Alternatively, you can submit to the interdiction attempt, then keep boosting until you can high wake out of there. Don’t make it easy for them by flying in a straight line – keep changing direction and try to be unpredictable in your movements.

You can improve your survival chances by using chaff to break gimbal locks and heat sinks and ECM to break missile locks. Point Defence Turrets (PDTs), which don’t need to be deployed and automatically engage enemy missiles and limpets, can also buy you precious seconds. And don’t forget to put all your power distributor pips into your thrusters and shields.

In general, if you’re worried about being attacked, then make sure you have a high-wake destination pre-selected. If you do this through the Galaxy Map and use the “plot route” option (as opposed to merely selecting a system), you can switch back to targeting your high-wake destination at any time using the “target next system in route” key (you need to bind a key to this first in the control options!).

Of course, having a fast ship also helps (see Coriolis EDCD for a table of ship stats)!

Station rammers
Another thing to be aware of is station ramming. This is a lame player killing tactic that abuses station collision rules. Its perpetrators fly disposable, unshielded ships (eg Sidewinders) that they have deliberately damaged in order to get the hull down to just 1-2%. They hang around popular stations and will attempt to kamikaze into Commanders travelling above the speed limit (>100m/s), resulting in the victim receiving a murder bounty and being almost instantly obliterated by the station’s defences. Rammers may also use silent running to avoid appearing on your scanner. Fortunately, evading the trap is simple: always make sure you are travelling at less than 100m/s when in and around stations (i.e. within the no-fire zone). The HUD will warn you if you’re speeding.

Don’t be put off!
If you are attacked/destroyed by another Commander for what seems like “no reason”, please don’t be put off from playing in Open. I play almost exclusively in Open and my experience of interacting with other players has largely been positive. That said, there are certain regions of space where you should definitely be more on guard:

  • Starting system regions (i.e. around LHS 3447 and Asellus Prime)
  • Active Community Goal systems
  • Recent or current story event locations e.g. crash sites, alien discoveries, etc
  • Systems being focussed on by PowerPlay campaigns
  • Popular destinations such as Engineer bases, the Sol System, Shinrarta Dezhra, etc.

These are the busiest player locations in the game and tend to be magnets for Commanders seeking out cheap kills (Community Goals probably being the worst for this). You should be even more wary of travelling through these systems if you have an active bounty or are allied to a hostile PowerPlay faction. Also, trade ships are likely to attract more attention as they’re sought after by pirates and make easy prey for player killers. Oh, and don’t be fooled by a system being labelled as “high security”, this offers little protection from other Commanders.

If you’re genuinely worried about travelling through these systems, but still want to play in Open, then you might want to consider forming a wing (I still need to add a section on Wings to this guide!) – safety in numbers and all that. You can hook up with potential wing mates through the official Elite: Dangerous Discord channel, the Looking For Wing discord channel or the Elite: Wings subreddit.

Also, check out The Git Guide to Trading in Open. This video tutorial has some great tips for surviving in Open that is of use to all playstyles, not just trading. It’s pretty funny too.

Alternatively, you could always head out to one of these locations in a cheaper or more expendable ship such as Sidewinder. Lastly, and this goes for playing in Solo as well, never, ever fly around in a ship you cannot afford to lose – always have enough money to cover your rebuy!!!

PvE-only groups
If a particular incident has put you off playing in Open or you just don’t fancy it, but you still yearn for a bit of human contact, then you might want to consider joining a PvE-only private group. These groups act as a halfway house between Open and Solo – you still have the possibility of encountering other Commanders, but PvP is strictly forbidden and players caught breaking the rules will be expelled. The largest and most famous of these is Mobius.

14. Reputation, rank, factions and civil wars

This is a little complicated, so I’ve tried to keep it simple (A Guide to Minor Factions and the Background Sim on the official forums goes into far more detail). The are three major factions (superpowers) in Elite: Dangerous: the Federation, Empire and Alliance. You hold a rank and a reputation with both the Federation and Empire, though currently just a reputation with the Alliance. By increasing your reputation and rank with the Federation and Empire you will be rewarded with permits to restricted systems (e.g. Sol or Achenar) and allowed to purchase faction-specific ships such as the Imperial Clipper or Federal Drop Ship. You gain rank by taking on naval ascension opportunities that appear on mission boards.

There are also hundreds of minor factions, up to five in any one system. Many of these are aligned to one of the three superpowers, while others are independent. Whichever faction owns the largest starport is deemed the controlling faction for the system and their political leaning determines the government type. In some instances this will be an anarchy government and the system will be lawless. Be aware that smaller starports may be owned by rival factions. Information about the system’s factions and control of starports can be found in the system map, as well as in the reputation section of the status tab in the system panel. The target information panel of your HUD (bottom left) also displays info about the controlling faction and government type.

Factions and influence.

Factions and influence. The system map displays information about the controlling faction and government type, as well as of the rival factions and their current standing (influence). Selecting a station will tell you which faction owns it.

Your reputation with a faction is affected by all your interactions with them – e.g. selling exploration data and trading at their starports, bringing pilots wanted by those factions to justice, criminal activity in their jurisdictions, failing or completing missions, etc. As your reputation increases with a faction they will offer you more lucrative missions. By working for one faction it is possible to negatively affect your reputation with another, so it’s important to select missions carefully; if you develop too negative a reputation with a faction, they will become hostile towards you and their NPCs may attack on sight.

It’s worth noting that reputation with the superpowers decays over time and as a consequence with all aligned minor factions. This works in both directions, so hostile superpowers and minor factions will slowly forgive you. Also, reputation increases faster when working for minors factions aligned to superpowers with which you have a good standing.

By working for factions you help to increase their influence, which can, in turn, affect the economic/political state of the system. If non-controlling factions become too influential, this may spark a war for control of a starport and potentially the entire system. These wars are determined at conflict zones which will pop up around the system. That said, it’s very difficult for a single player to have much affect on the background simulation.

Pilot’s Federation
As a member of the Pilot’s Federation, you hold separate ranks with them for combat, trade and explorer, which are independent of any faction (the ranks are detailed here). These ranks are used as a guide for mission difficulty. Taking on a mission above your current rank can be risky but lucrative (you will be warned of this in the mission briefing). Improving any of these ranks also increases the maximum loan available to you upon ship destruction.

The CQC rank is solely from playing the CGC Championship game mode and has no bearing on the main game.

Ranking and reputation tab. Here you can see you can how you stand with the three main factions as well any of the smaller factions. The blue arrow indicates that my reputation is continuing to improve with these factions. Click image for larger version.

Ranking and reputation tab. Here you can see you can how you stand with the three main factions as well as any of the minor factions. The blue arrow indicates an increase and the red arrow a decrease in reputation. Click image for larger version.

15. Making money early on and signal sources

With only 4T cargo space in the Sidewinder, you’re not going to make much of a living doing trade runs. The best place to start is by taking on work from the missions board.

Another good way to make easy money is by investigating unidentified signal sources (USSs) that you come across in SC (see below for types). At these, you’ll encounter other ships (some may be hostile/wanted), but you will often also find abandoned commodities just floating around in the void. These can be salvaged by using your cargo scoop to hoover them up or deploying cargo limpets (jump to mining section).

Cargo found at wreck sites is generally considered legal salvage and can be sold to the Search and Rescue Agent starport contact. Other items may be considered as “stolen” or illegal and will need to be sold on the black market (jump to Pirating, smuggling, and silent running section).

General tips:

  • if you bought the Mercenary Edition (no longer available) of Elite: Dangerous, click on the shipyard contact in starport services and select the ship locations tab, then head to the system shown to collect your free Eagle (or Freagle as the cool kids are calling it); it’s a nimble ship and well suited to bounty hunting, which can be good of source of income early in the game (jump to Combat section; jump to Bounty Hunting section)
  • your ship will be installed with a basic discovery-scanner (D-scanner) – there are many “unexplored” systems within the bubble (inhabited space), so use it for easy money! (jump to Exploration section)
  • new missions can very occasionally be obtained at signal sources

Signal source types
USSs now come in multiple flavours and are automatically scanned when facing them with your ship. This will reveal both their identity and a threat level (0-5). Zero is usually safe, but watch out for the occasional pirate ambush.

  • Encoded/Degraded Emissions are ship wrecks where you are likely to find cargo canisters and things like occupied escape pods, black boxes, data caches, etc, which can be sold to Search and Rescue contacts or on the black market, or used to fulfil certain missions; sometimes you will have to contend with rescue ships who may become hostile if you attempt to plunder the wreckage; if you have the Horizons expansion, you may also find materials and data beacons at these
  • Weapons Fire Detected will usually contain pirates, bounty hunters and system authority ships battling it out; these are good for bounty hunting
  • Combat aftermath/ High-grade emissions (Horizons expansion only) contain manufactured materials
  • Convoy Dispersal Patterns will contain a convoy of ships (obviously) and these can sometimes be hostile or wanted; these have the potential for bounty hunting but are probably best avoided early on
  • Ceremonial Comms will contain a convoy of a wedding, funeral, party ships; not much use really
  • Trading Beacons will contain a trade ship; if you have want they want, it will be automatically transferred to their ship and you will be compensated with credits (usually well above the galactic average)
  • Distress Calls are usually NPCs in need of fuel or under attack by pirates. For the former, you will require fuel limpets and will receive no reward for assisting. For the latter you will potentially face a large number of well-armed pirates – fun but challenging, and you will receive no reward expect that of the bounties collected.
  • Non-human Signal Source – thargoid-related encounters typically found in and around the Pleiades Nebula (near Merope and Maia). Be warned the thargoid aliens may be beautiful but they’re also very dangerous!
freagle location

Shipyard. My Freagle is located in Kitae, 121 light years from whatever system I made this screenshot in. Never did get round to collecting it, but as beta-backer, I had the option of starting as a pirate with a Cobra : ) Click image for larger version.

16. The endgame and career paths

Let’s get down to brass tacks: there is no real endgame in Elite: Dangerous other than that you set for yourself. There is no central narrative, no story missions, no objectives set by the game. You are not some chiselled-jaw action hero on a quest to save humanity. In fact, in the grand scheme of the Elite universe, you’re pretty damn insignificant. Get over it.

Elite: Dangerous is all about creating your own journey and setting your own goals. Do you want to be a trader, bounty hunter, smuggler, psychopath, professional assassin, courier, mercenary, miner, pirate, explorer or jack of all trades? It’s completely up to you – the Milky Way is your rather large oyster.

16.1. A note on missions

Missions come in a variety of forms and feed into all career paths. They are primarily obtained from missions boards at ports. The type of missions available at a particular station will generally reflect the local economy and the political leaning of the issuing faction.

As of version 3.0, you can choose the reward you receive for missions taken on from starport bulletin boards. Possible rewards include additional credits, materials (Horizons only), commodities, or a greater reputation increase. You will be shown the possible mission rewards before committing to the mission and get to choose your preferred payment upon completion (up to three options).

mission rewards

Mission rewards. Missions taken on from starports now come with up to three reward options, to be chosen from on completion. Here I’m opting for the cracked industrial firmware – an excellent decision I might add! Click image for larger version.

Missions can also be given to you in space by NPCs, sometimes as an alternative proposal to a currently active mission. These can be accepted or rejected through your comms panel. Occasionally, upon completing a mission you will receive an offer of a related job from the same faction on the mission board. These are known as chained missions and are marked by a chain-link icon.

All missions timers are in real time so never take on what you can’t complete (extensions are occasionally granted) and some carry a fine for completion failure. Also, note that any undelivered cargo will become classed as stolen upon mission failure and therefore can only be sold on the black market.

Click image for larger version.

Alternate mission proposal. Occasionally an NPC will request that you follow their low wake out of SC, where they will propose an alternative to an active mission. The details of this will appear in your comms panel, where you can accept or reject their offer. Click image for larger version.

Read missions briefings very carefully. Some will require you to break the law (killing, piracy, illegal salvage, trespass) or may result in hostile ships being sent after you. Others may require you to meet a contact in space at a specified time to receive your instructions. Also, take note of the stated mission rank as this an indication of the relative difficulty. Taking on a mission above your current rank can be lucrative but also risky, i.e. you may be attacked/interdicted by very strong ships.

Mission objectives can change after accepting them, these are known as wrinkles. You may be given a new deadline, destination or bonus objective, or told to meet a contact for further details. You will be informed of these changes via the comms panel. Most are optional.

Mission targets can be found either by using a discovery scanner (jump to Exploration section) or by dropping out of SC at a nav beacon and targetting it for a passive scan. You will be informed of the details via your comms and transactions panels. This usually involves travelling to a named planetary body and waiting for a mission-related signal source to appear (see screenshot below). This can sometimes take a little while. Also, note that mission-related signal sources will keep respawning until you complete your objective. For surface missions (Horizons expansion only), a search zone will appear on the planet once you get close enough (jump to Surface missions section).

Mission related signal source

Mission-related signal source. The general location of a mission target can be determined by either using a discovery scanner or by dropping out of SC and scanning a nav beacon. You then need to travel to the specified planetary body and wait (or slowly fly round it). Eventually, a mission-related signal source will appear. Note that these do respawn if you don’t complete your objective first time round. Click image for larger version.

16.2. Trading

Trading can be very profitable if you can find some good routes, but it usually requires a little research (imperial slaves and precious metals are a good place to start once you have the necessary capital). Basically, you want to buy commodities in medium to high supply and transport them to where they are in demand (i.e. low supply).

The galactic average provides a rough guide to the type of return you can expect on a particular commodity. However, you collect trade data from each system you visit (either by docking at a starport or scanning a nav beacon). This data can be used to help research profitable trade routes. To enter the trade data overlay, head over to the commodities market and click on the “galactic average price” column header. Then click on “by market” followed by “select on galaxy map”. Alternatively, switch to the commodities filter on the galaxy map.

From here you can select a specific commodity from the left-hand panel, then view which systems are importing (blue diamonds) and exporting it (green triangles) within 40ly of your current location. A white diamond indicates that you have trade data for the system, but the selected commodity is not being traded. Moving the cursor over a visited system will reveal prices and additional options. You can filter data by landing pad size and market range (i.e. the distance of starports from the main star). Selecting a system and then clicking on the “compare in commodities market” will make the import and export prices available on the commodities market screen. When back on the commodities market screen, click on the same column header as earlier to switch between stations as well as import and export data.

You can also view current trading trends, based on systems you have visited in the last 24 hours. This information can also be bought directly through the galaxy map for 100cr a pop. It can be filtered to only show data based on other Commanders (i.e. players).

See the screenshots below for a very simple example of how to research a trade run using coffee as an example.

trade data galaxy map overlay

With the trade data overlay enabled on the galaxy map, you can view which systems are importing (blue diamonds) and exporting (green triangles) a specified commodity. However, this only works for systems you’ve visited in the past. Here, I’m looking at coffee (mmmm… coffee!). Moving the cursor over a system will reveal prices and additional options. The Wolszczan Terminal in the Inupiates system is currently importing for 1890 credits per tonne. Click image for larger version.

trending trade routes for coffee

Trading coffee 1. Using the galaxy map you can also see trending trade routes for any commodity (select from the filters tab) for systems you’ve visited in the last 24 hours. This data can also be bought for 100cr a pop. You can view multiple commodities simultaneously, but I’m only looking at coffee here (green lines). Click image for larger version.

trading coffee

Trading coffee 2. The Finlay-Freundlich Hub starport in the Kikua system is a wealthy, large population agriculture economy. It mainly produces foodstuffs, which are exported to all other economy types. Coffee (highlighted) is in high supply and can be bought for 1135cr per tonne, which is 237cr below the galactic average. The panel on the right lists the nearby systems it’s imported from and exported to. The last column of the table has been set to show the export profit when trading with the Wolszczan Terminal in the Inupiates system. For coffee, I would make around 750cr per tonnes. Click image for larger version.

The trick is to learn the imports and exports of different economy types. For instance, extraction systems produce minerals; these are needed by refinery systems, which in turn produce metals required in industrial and high-tech economies. Trade prices and production are affected by supply and demand as well as government type, wealth and population size of the system, and the system’s current status (e.g. civil war, lockdown, boom). The EDDB is a great site for researching trade runs or finding systems that import or export specific commodities.

When trading, cargo space is everything. However, vessels geared towards freightage (e.g. the Hauler and Lakon transporters) handle poorly and have limited combat capabilities so you will be easy prey for pirates and nutjobs. That said, NPC pirates are relatively easy to give the slip – simply submit to their interdiction, stick 4 pips to engines and keep boosting until you’re able to high wake out of there (jump to Supercruise and interdiction section). Encounters with pirate Commanders are infrequent; however, they probably won’t be so inept (jump to pirating, smuggling and silent running section) and it might be in your best interests to give into their demands.

Note that hatch breaker limpets, fired like a missile, penetrate shields and attach themselves to your cargo hatch, releasing some of your precious wares into the void. These can be effectively countered with point defence turrets (PDTs) and activating ECM, which will remove any attached limpets from your hull. You do not need to deploy weapons for these systems to work; however, while PDTs are passive, ECM must be activated manually and has a 10-second cooldown.

Some players swap out shields for more cargo space; it’s a risky gambit – you’re only one accidental boost away from being space garbage and an even easier target for freebooters and psychos.

Rare commodities
There are also commodities in the game that are classed as “rare” and which behave differently from standard commodities. Each one is unique to a single starport and cannot be purchased anywhere else in the universe. They can be sold at any starport (though some are considered illegal and must be sold on the black market), but the further you travel from the source the higher the return you will make. However, this relationship is not linear and you will need travel in excess of 100LY from the source to make it worth the effort – the sweet spot seems to be around 125LY and the returns beyond this distance are diminishing. Also each rare has a maximum allocation and you cannot purchase more until you sell what you currently hold. The Elite: Dangerous Wiki has a list of rare goods. The Elite Rare Trader map shows their locations across the galaxy and allows route planning.

16.3. Couriering, procurement, and salvage

Become a space postie! Usually pretty straightforward: accept jobs from the missions boards, take cargo from A to B. Some missions do not require the use of any cargo space, e.g. messages, small packages, etc. Be aware that you will sometimes be requested to transport cargo that is considered illegal at the intended destination, but this will be spelt out in the mission description. If this is the case you will need to avoid been scanned by the authorities (jump to pirating, smuggling and silent running section). Also, some missions will result in hostile ships being sent after you. Again, you’ll be warned of this in the description.

As of update 3.2, depots appear on the missions board at both the source and destination starports for haulage mission. These allow you to take on large cargo delivery missions regardless of your hold size and complete them over the course of multiple trips. You simply collect as much as you can carry from the issuing station and drop it off at the destination station, then return to pick up more; rinse and repeat. The mission is complete once all the goods have been delivered.

Mission board depots for haulage scenarios

Depots 1. Pick-up and drop-off depots now appear on the missions board for haulage scenarios, which allows you to make multiple trips to complete a mission. Click image for larger version.

Mission board depots for haulage scenarios

Depots 2. At mission depots, you can choose how much you want to haul and how much you want to drop off. Exciting stuff. Click image for larger version.

A variation on haulage missions is procurement contracts, where you will be tasked with sourcing x tonnes of a particular commodity and delivering within a specified time frame — the EDDB commodity finder is a great tool for this. Sometimes the mission will specify these must be stolen and sometimes this will be from a specific target (jump to pirating, smuggling, and silent running section), so read the briefing carefully.

Salvage missions require you to recover items found at a specific signal source (jump to Making money early on and signal sources) or to head to a search zone on a planetary surface (jump to Surface missions section). Collection limpets are pretty useful for salvage missions that take place in space.

16.4. Bounty hunting

Kill criminal scum for their bounties, which are then cashed in at starports in the relevant jurisdiction (see below). You no longer need to scan a wanted ship first before engaging. However, if you attack an unscanned ship and it turns out to be clean, you will receive an assault bounty.

The kill warrant scanner (KWS) can be used to scan a target for additional bounties linked to the current jurisdiction’s superpower allegiance. If the ship is clean but found to be wanted elsewhere, you will be granted a license to kill them. All detected bounties will be claimed on the ship’s destruction. As such, the KWS can significantly increase bounty hunting income.

Good hunting spots are nav beacons (NAVs), resource extraction sites (RES) and certain types of signal source. Compromised NAVs and hazardous RESs are the most dangerous with no security forces present, but also by far the most lucrative. You can find good locations on Elite: Dangerous Utilities. You can also find contracts for killing a specified number of pirates in a named system.

Once you get a better ship/loadout (at least a well kitted-out Viper or Cobra, but ideally a Vulture), you’ll be able to go after juicer but more challenging targets. In particular, convoys and distress calls often contain large pirate wings or you can interdict valuable targets in SC – claiming a bounty on a wanted Python or Anaconda can net you anywhere up to 300,000cr.

Remember to exercise some trigger discipline when bounty hunting in busy areas. Repeated friendly fire accidents can result in fines and even bounties.

In general, bounty payments can only be collected at starports where the issuing faction is present. However, for a 25% commission, the Interstellar Factors Contact, found only in low-security systems, allows Commanders to pay off fines, claim bounties, and hand in combat bonds that relate to any system or jurisdiction. Remember, all bounty vouchers are lost if you die.

One less scumbag in the universe. You will lose any unclaimed bounties upon destructions, so don't forget to cash them in when you get a chance.

Bounty hunting. Cleaning up the universe one scumbag at a time. You will lose any unclaimed bounties upon destruction, so don’t forget to cash them in when you get a chance. Click image for larger version.

16.5. Assassin

Take on hit contracts from the missions boards. Normally, the target is found at a mission-related signal source (jump to a note on missions section). You’ll need a decent ship, kitted out for combat. The bigger the reward and higher the recommended combat rank, the tougher the target. Some may also have wingmen to contend with. Bear in mind that if they have a clean criminal status you will be committing murder unless in a lawless system.

In a similar vein you can also take on contracts to kill x number of pirates/traders/authority vessels/etc in a certain system. The advantage of these is you can find your targets anywhere (nav beacons, resource extraction sites, flying around in SC, signal sources, etc).

16.6. Mercenary

Fly to a conflict zone and choose a side to fight for by going into the functions tab of the systems panel. You’ll receive a combat bond for each kill worth 4,000cr–80,000cr, depending on ship type, that you can cash in at a relevant starport (see below); but like bounty claims these are all lost if you die. You only need to get the last shot on the ship to claim the kill. You can also find contracts that pay for a specified number of warzone kills in a stated system. Lists of systems with active conflict zones can be found in the Galnet news feed or found in the galaxy map by using the “war” state filter.

In general, combats bonds can only be redeemed at starports where the issuing faction is present. However, for a 25% commission, the Interstellar Factors Contact, found only in low security systems, allows Commanders to pay off fines, claim bounties, and hand in combat bonds that relate to any system or jurisdiction.

Flighting for the Kappa Fornacis Farmers against the evil Federation. When entering a conflict zone, remember to choose a side from the functions panel. Each kill will net you a 3000cr combat bond regardless of what type of

Conflict zones. Flighting for the Kappa Fornacis Farmers against the evil Federation. When entering a conflict zone remember to choose a side from the functions panel first. For each kill you will be awarded with a combat bond worth 4,000cr-80,000cr depending on ship type. Click image for larger version.


16.7. Psychopath

I don’t think I really need to explain this. In the immortal words of the Talking Heads:

Psycho Killer
Qu’est-ce que c’est?
Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away…

16.8. Mining and collection drones

Hi ho, hi ho… and all that crap. Mining involves extracting minerals and metals from asteroids. Individual belt clusters (usually in close proximity to stars) comprise just a handful of asteroids, so you’re better off at a planetary ring where the supply of asteroids is virtually infinite. Ideally you want to head to somewhere with pristine reverses and metallic (best) or metal-rich asteroids. This information is displayed on the system map, though you may need to first buy exploration data from a starport.

Pristine metallic rings are far more likely to yield the most profitable precious metals/minerals such as painite, platinum, palladium, gold, and osmium (listed in order of value according to the Elite: Dangerous Wiki mining value guide). Handily, Elite: Dangerous Utilities has a tool for locating pristine metallic rings.

You can also mine icy rings. Again you want to head to somewhere with pristine reverses and it’s only really worth bothering with low temperature diamonds. Mining is very time consuming, so it’s not worth pursuing less valuable minerals/metals, especially if you have little cargo space.

By opening up the system map and clicking on Jura 7, you can see that its inner ring contains metallic asteroids with pristine reserves

Mining research. By opening up the system map and clicking on a ringed planet or a belt cluster, you can find out information about the quality of its asteroids. Here, we can see that the inner ring of Jura 7 contains metallic asteroids with pristine reserves – this is perfect for mining. Click image for larger version.

Pirates hang around at designated mining locations (known as resource extraction sites or RESs), so you will need to be able to defend yourself or be ready to make a hasty retreat; you’re more likely to be attacked at a high-intensity RES and there will be no security forces to protect you at a hazardous RES. However, if you fly far away from the centre of the RES (>40km) you are far less likely to be bothered. Or, even better, simply drop out of SC at a random spot in the ring and mine undisturbed (mostly).

To do the actual mining you will need to install a mining laser and refinery module. Simply get close to a floating turd and shoot it with your lasers. Fragments liberated from the same asteroid will normally have a similar composition and can be analysed by targeting them. These fragments need to be collected either manually using your cargo scoop or by using drones (see below). Collected fragments are processed by your refinery module.

Refinery modules house a number of bins (more expensive versions will have additional bins). As you scoop up fragments, minerals/metals will be automatically assigned to an empty bin; you can vent anything you are not interested in refining further. When a hopper reaches capacity it will generate 1T of that commodity, which will then transfer to your cargo hold and free up the bin (see screenshots below). The refinery module is accessed through the inventory tab of the systems panel (see screenshot below).

Any metal or mineral added to your ignore list will be automatically discarded by the refinery, which saves venting them manually. This is done through the contacts tab of the targets panel. Simply select a mining fragment and chose one or more metals/minerals to be ignored. This is remembered by the game for future playing sessions, but can be undone in exactly the same way.

Mining 1. You need to get very close to the asteroid for your mining lasers to work (<500m). You can gather liberated fragments manually using your cargo scoop, but collection drones are far more efficient. Click image for larger version.

mining 04

Mining 2. The refinery module can be found in the inventory tab of the system panel. Mine has 8 bins, 6 of which are currently in use. As you scoop up fragments, minerals/metals will be automatically assigned to an empty bin; you can vent anything you are not interested in refining further. In my case I will vent the indite and possibly the osmium. When a bin reaches 100%, 1T of that commodity is generated, which will transfer to your cargo hold and free up the bin. Click image for larger version.

ignore list

Mining 3. Any metal or mineral added to the ignore list will be automatically discarded by your refinery. This is done through the contacts panel. Fragments composed entirely of metals/minerals on the ignore list will be left alone by your collection limpets. Click image for larger version.


Collection limpets
To improve efficiency, I strongly urge investment in a collection limpets — particularly as mining fragments will eventually dematerialise, so speed is of the essence. This requires a collection limpet controller to be installed (in an optional internal slot); the limpet drones are bought separately from the restock menu at starports and take up cargo space.

Collector limpets are fired like a weapon (you need to assign to a fire group) and have two modes: targeted and automatic. If you target an ore fragment and launch a drone it will quickly collect that fragment and then immediately expire. If you have no collection target selected the drone will slowly collect all the fragments (or cargo canisters) in range for a set period of time. At the end of this period it will expire and you will need to launch another drone. Investing in a better controller will increase both the number of simultaneous drones you can launch and their range and life-span.

As mentioned above, metals and minerals that you do not wish to be processed can be added to your ignore list. Any collectable items (cargo, materials, etc) can also be added to this list. Items on the ignore list, or mining fragments composed entirely of metals/minerals on the list, will be left alone by your limpets.

You can also buy prospector limpets to investigate the content of nearby asteroids (one can be seen in use in the screenshot above). Like the collection drones these require a controller and a supply of limpets. Simply fire a prospector at a nearby asteroid and target it. When it reaches the asteroid the target panel will display information on the content of the asteroid. Prospectors are single use (when you fire a new one the previous one will automatically expire), slow and have limited range. However, using one doubles the quantity of fragments you can liberate from an asteroid and so are also highly recommended.

16.9. Exploration and fuel scooping

A solitary life that involves heading out to uncharted systems (i.e. with little/no information about them on the galaxy map), discover stuff and then sell the data to the Universal Cartographics contact at a starport. It’s a simple process that involves using a discovery scanner (D-scanner) while in SC to find astronomical bodies. If successful, you will receive a message on your HUD (see screenshot below) and one or more “unexplored” contacts will appear in the navigation panel. If you target one of these and head towards it your ship will automatically scan it when you get close enough. The scan will take about 30 seconds and the body will be named upon completion.

Fuel scooping
If you’re heading well out into uninhabited space you will need to install a fuel scoop (optional internal slot). As the name suggests, these are used to replenish your fuel reserves by skimming the corona of stars. Bigger and more expensive versions scoop at a faster rate – always buy the best one you can afford as it will save you a lot of time, especially in ships with larger fuel capacities.

Bear in mind that you can only scoop at KGB FOAM class stars (these can be filtered on the galaxy map and a handy icon will display the last scoopable star on your current plotted route). Scooping is not difficult, but if you get it wrong your ship will overheat – you’re safe up to 100% on the heat gauge, but after that your modules will take damage (heat sinks are your friend!). Simply approach the corona slowly (e.g. >25% throttle) until the scoop engages. Personally, I keep going until I reach around 60-70% of my possible scoop rate, with the heat level also kept between 60 and 70%. Then I drop the throttle to zero and sit there until my tank is full. If you start getting too hot, don’t panic, fly away from the star and begin the procedure again. Be careful when scooping at binaries and trinaries, as your ship is likely to get much hotter than normal.

If you get too close to a star, you will drop out of SC. Don’t panic! Point your ship away from the star, wait for the FSD cool down to finish, then low wake (i.e. head into SC not a hyperspace jump) out of there. You will need to target the escape vector. Depending on your configuration and the type of star, your ship may get very hot, so now would be a good time to use some of those heat sinks.


Fuel scooping. Personally, I approach the corona at 25% throttle, dropping to zero when I reach around 60-70% of my possible scoop rate (in this case my max rate is 878kg/s) and a heat level between 60 and 70%. Then I just sit there until my tank is full. Click image for larger version.

General exploration tips

  • the D-scanner needs to be assigned to a fire group and is used like any other scanner
  • the basic D-scanner has a range of 500 Ls; intermediate (1000 Ls) and advanced scanners (entire system) have an increased range, but they’re not cheap
  • installing a detailed surface scanner (DSS) in addition to the D-scanner will provide more data about the body, which can then be sold for a better price
  • you need to find a starport more than 20LY from the system to sell the data
  • after discovering new bodies they will appear on the system map, use this to look for candidates to scan
  • earth-like worlds, water worlds and terraform candidates generate the best income, metallic planets are worth a look (if within reasonable range), but don’t waste your time on featureless rocks and you get no money for belt clusters (check out the Elite: Dangerous Wiki value list; useful visual guides can be found on Lave Wiki and postimage)
  • if you’re the first to scan a body you will receive 50% extra money and you will be credited with the discovery on the system map (only after selling the data)
  • the Diamondback and ASP variants are relatively affordable and well suited to exploration due to their large jump ranges and fuel tanks
  • there are many systems within the bubble, both inhabited and uninhabited, where you can scan “unexplored” bodies for easy money and rank progression
  • Elite Dangerous Utilities has tools for finding interesting/special star systems, eg black holes, neutrons stars, etc
exploration new discoveries

Exploration 1. Following a successful discovery scan you will receive a message like this and new contacts labelled “unexplored” should appear on your HUD and navigation panel. Click image for larger version.

exploration system map

Exploration 2. Visual representations will also appear on the system map, giving you a better idea of which bodies might be worth scanning and whether someone else has already been credited with the discovery. When you get close enough to a selected target, it will automatically be scanned. Here I’m the first to scan a terraformable water world, which is one of the best paying discoveries. Click image for larger version.

Exploration 3. Selling exploration data at the Universal Cartographers starport service. You need to be at least 20Ly from the system you charted in order to sell the data.

Exploration 3. Selling exploration data at the Universal Cartographers starport service. You need to be at least 20Ly from the system you charted in order to sell the data. Click image for larger version.

Exploration 4.

Exploration 4. You will receive 50% bonus if you were first to scan a body and will be credited with the discovery on the system map (after selling the data). Click image for larger version.


16.10. Pirating, smuggling and silent running

Install a manifest scanner and relieve evil capitalist traders of their precious cargo – yaaaaaarrrrrr! At present you can’t make demands to NPCs and destroying a ship usually yields zero cargo (other than materials for Engineer upgrades; jump to Horizons section), which leaves three ways to approach this:

  1. Find/interdict a human player and use the comms system to demand they drop some cargo. Good luck with this as most are extremely unreceptive to being pirated. The Elite: Dangerous forums are awash with anti-pirating sentiment (with many equating it to griefing) and many players will combat log (i.e. kill their game process to escape combat; an exploit that is supposedly being looked into by Frontier), which begs the question: why play in Open then?
  2. Using a hatch breaker limpet mine (see below).
  3. Targeting the cargo hatch through the subsystems panel (or press Y). If you damage the hatch enough, cargo will start being vomited out into space. The trick is not to destroy the ship in the process, which can be a problem against smaller vessels like the Hauler or Cobra. Low-damage gimballed weapons (e.g. pulse/burst lasers) work well for this purpose.

Obviously some will try to flee while others may counter-attack, so you might consider disabling their drives before attempting one of the above. Be aware that if you take too long the local space rozzers may show up and try to ruin your day. Note that jettisoned cargo will eventually dematerialise, so don’t mess around when collecting your precious booty. You may want to consider using collector drones for speed and convenience (jump to mining section).

Like bounty hunting, nav beacons and RESs are good places to pirate. Alternatively, you can pull fat transporters out of SC using an interdiction module (jump to Supercruise and interdiction section). Ideally you want to research trade routes using the galaxy map to find juicy hauls. You can also take on missions that require you to acquire stolen commodities, sometimes from a specific target.

Hatch breakers
These are basically homing missiles that you fire at your prey. If successful, they latch onto the cargo hatch of the target and try to break it open. First you need to install a hatch breaker limpet controller (optional internal slot); the limpets are purchased separately from the restock menu at starports.

They’re much better than they used to be, especially as they now penetrate/ignore shields. However, each limpet only yields a small fraction of the target’s cargo (and it’s pot luck what cargo it liberates), which gets strewn over a large area. They’re also slow and can be outrun, and can be destroyed by point defence turrets and ECM (once attached to the hull). Also, carrying limpets takes up precious cargo space on your ship. Better controller modules increase the change of success and allow you to fire more limpets simultaneously

Smuggling stolen goods and prohibited items
Any loot you acquire as a pirate or many items found at signal sources will be classed as stolen or illegal and will need to be sold to a black market contact  – not all stations have one, but anarchy systems are usually a safe bet. You can use this black market finder to locate ones in nearby systems (though it’s not always up to date). Black markets are also listed on the starport facilities list on the system map.

Outside of anarchy regions, you will need to avoid authority scans when entering a starport if you don’t want to be landed with a hefty fine. The same goes for goods considered illegal at that starport (visit the system map for a list of prohibited items). Your HUD will display an “Illicit Cargo” warning above the fuel gage if you are carrying anything that could get you into trouble in that particular system. However, being caught with stolen goods is not the end of the world – you will not be fired upon and you will only be fined. The fine will be proportional to the quantity and value of the goods, which will not be confiscated and sometimes (especially for specific smuggling missions) you are still able to turn a profit.

The best tactic to avoid being caught is to enter the starport at speed so that there isn’t enough time to complete the scan before you’re inside. Remember, crashing into another ship while “speeding” can land you a fine or even a murder bounty. Watch for patrolling authority ships and time your entry accordingly.

Curiously, you very rarely get scanned at outposts so these can be a convenient refuge for outlaws, though they tend to provide fewer services than starports – some don’t even offer repairs or munitions resupply (available facilities are listed on the system map).

Also, if you’re carrying illegal wares, you may want to consider turning off the “report crimes against me” option in the functions tab. Otherwise, if you get attacked outside of an anarchy system, the cops will eventually show up and you might get scanned.

Silent running
“Silent running” is a useful tactic for evading scans when entering ports. With silent running enabled you become unresolved on the scanners of other ships/starports, meaning they can’t lock onto you to perform a scan, unless very close. The downside is that your shields go offline (so don’t crash) and the ship vents are closed off so the cockpit gradually heats up. If it gets too hot, equipment will begin to take damage and malfunction (you’re fine up to 100% on the temperature gauge).

There are two ways to deal with this. Firstly, you can turn off non-essential ship modules (e.g. shield boosters, FSD, cargo hatch, etc) in the systems panel to reduce total heat output, which will give you more time before overheating. Secondly, you can deploy a heat sink (of which you can carry a very limited number and require launcher to be installed in a utility slot). These instantly draw all the heat from the ship, reducing the temperature to 0%, but only last a few seconds. Also, the colder your ship the harder you become to detect; at 0% you become virtually invisible to all but the closest of ships.

On the system map you can view imports, exports and prohibited commodities for each starport

On the system map you can view prohibited commodities for each starport. This is important to know if you want to avoid a potentially massive fine. This will also tell you whether the port has a black market. Click image for larger version.


16.11 Taxi service and tour operator

Become a glorified taxi service! A bit like couriering, but the cargo talks back and starts to get shirty when you get shot at or have a slight mental breakdown and decide to set the controls for the heart of the sun. Passenger missions are taken on from the passenger the lounge and will only be available to you if you have the capacity and meet the minimum accommodation requirement of the client.

Installing cabins and accommodating your passengers
First you’ll need to install some cabins in an optional internal slot. These come in four accommodation classes: economy, business, first, and luxury. Though, only the Beluga and Orca, which are dedicated passenger liners (and rather plush looking), can install luxury cabins. The capacity of each cabin varies according to accommodation type and module size. So, for instance, a class 6 first-class cabin has a capacity for 12 passengers, whereas class 6 economy can hold 32. Obviously, some potential clients have standards and will refuse to travel in cattle class, or even business or first for that matter. But it is always possible upgrade the scum, I mean less discerning clients.

When accepting a mission, you must then choose which cabin to place the party. Note that named passengers (crown symbol in the missions list) will not share cabins with other parties. Remaining cabin capacity can be reviewed via the inventory tab.


Passenger cabins 1. Cabins are installed in an optional internal slot and come in variety of sizes and accommodation types. The better the accommodation, the fewer passengers it can take. Click image for larger version.


Passenger cabins 2. After accepting a mission, you can choose which cabin to place party. Parties can be upgraded but not downgraded. Here, the party is willing to share the cabin with another group. Named parties (crown symbol in the mission list), will refuse to share. Click image for larger version.

Passenger traits
Before taking on a job, it is important to properly read the brief and learn the passenger’s traits. Some passengers will not react well to danger or illegal activity, others will not appreciate delays or being scanned by authority vessels. Prima donna kebab types are likely to make sudden and whimsical demands, such as stopping off at a conflict zone or wanting you to find them some wine. Shadier characters might be pursued by hostile forces or be wanted in some systems. Be warned, security forces will open fire if you’re caught harbouring a criminal (jump to pirating, smuggling and silent running section).

If a passenger becomes too dissatisfied, they may demand you dock at the nearest starport, where they will promptly disembark, while less stable types may suddenly abandon ship using the escape pods; either way you don’t get paid and will lose reputation with the associated faction. You also fail the mission upon ship destruction, though apparently your passengers do survive (unlike NPC crew!). You can review passenger traits and their current level of satisfaction at any time via the transactions tab.


Passenger traits 1. This passenger is a criminal. Carrying her is considered an illegal act in most systems, meaning that if I’m scanned by the pigs I’ll be in hot bother. Click image for larger version.


Passenger demands will appear in the comms panel and vary considerably, such as heading to a station to purchase a specific commodity (like my alcoholic friend here) or stopping off at a conflict zone to watch the whiz bangs for a bit. Click image for larger version.


Criminals. Getting scanned near or inside a starport while harbouring an illegal passenger will almost certainly result in annihilation. Speed, silent running and heat sinks are your friends. Click image for larger version.

Passenger mission types
Passenger missions come in three basic varieties:

1. Ferrying from A to B. Simply transport the passengers to the required destination within a set amount of time.

2. Tourism. Take passengers to a sequence of visitor beacons in a number of systems then return home. Visitor beacons usually appear as POIs in the navigations tab, otherwise will appear when you approach a specified planetary body. These behave similar to nav beacons. Simply drop out of SC at them, then target the beacon, it will be scanned automatically and you will receive a short history of the site via the comms panel. Once the passengers are satisfied, you will be informed of your next destination. These missions can be quite time consuming and may involve travelling hundreds of light years, so a fuel scoop is advisable.


Tourism missions involve taking parties out to visitor beacons in specified systems. When you arrive, you will need to target the beacon to scan it. You will then receive some flavour text about the site via the comms panel. Click image for larger version.

3. Long distance round trips. These involve taking clients out to distance systems to scan for data, then returning home. The pay is high, but can involve travelling thousands or even tens of thousands of light years. As such, they are best suited to experienced explorers with properly outfitted ships. A fuel scoop is a must (jump to exploration section).



Long distance ferrying. As tempting as 22 million may sound, it involves a 10,500LY round trip. Click image for larger version.

16.12 Wing missions

As of update 3.0, wing missions can now be found on the mission boards at starports. They are indicated by a blue circle in the bottom left of the listing summary. Although these are intended for people playing as a group, they can still be taken on by solo Commanders. Essentially, they are just scaled up versions of standard missions and include assassination, massacre, haulage, and procurement scenarios. When working in a wing, the rewards will be duplicated rather than shared. However, they may not be always be worth the extra time, effort or risk when playing alone.

Wing missions

Wing missions are indicated by a blue circle symbol. Click image for larger version.

For the haulage scenarios, depots will be created on the missions board at both the source and destination starports. All players in the wing should be able to see and use these depots, and they allow you to make multiple trips to complete the mission. You simply collect as much as you can carry from the issuing station and drop it off at the destination station, then return to pick up more; rinse and repeat. The mission is complete once all the goods have been delivered.

wing mission depot collecting

Wing mission depots — collecting. This is the collection depot, found on the missions board of the issuing station. Simply pick up as much as you can carry and take it to the depot at the destination. Click image for larger version.

wing mission depot delivering

Wing missions depot — delivering. This is the delivery depot, found on the missions board of the destination station. You drop off the cargo here. Click image for larger version.


16.13 Community Goals

Community Goals are global, story-driven missions created on a semi-frequent basis by Frontier. They normally last for several days or more and anyone can take part – it doesn’t matter whether you play in Open, Private Group or Solo. Missions range from bringing specified commodities or exploration data to particular stations to fighting in named conflict zones or collecting bounties in certain jurisdictions. When available, Community Goals will appear under the missions bulletin board at all stations. Details of active events can also be found under the Community Goal Discussions sticky on the official forums or through the Galnet News service.

Depending on the mission type and commodities involved, Community Goals can be quite profitable and include bonus rewards based on your total contribution relative to other Commanders (eg top 75%, top 50%, top 25%, etc.) as well as the overall progress of the community. Some missions also include global rewards if certain community targets are met. These include things like new starports being constructed or influencing the direction of particular background story lines.

To participate, you first need to enrol. To do so, select the mission from the starport service board, scroll down to the end and click on the sign up button. The Community Goal will then appear under your transactions tab, where you can track both global and personal progress. Don’t worry, there are no penalties if you change your mind and end up not participating in the objective. When a Community Goal expires, you should head to the specified station to collect your bonus reward.

BE WARNED THOUGH: if you play in Open, Community Goal sites are among the busiest locations in the game and tend to be a magnet for Commanders with nefarious designs — being interdicted and attacked by others players is a very strong possibility.

Community Goals 1. Active Community Goals will appear on mission boards at all stations. Select one to see a detailed description. If you fancy participating, scroll down to the bottom and click the sign-up button.  Click image for larger version.

Community Goals 2. You can monitor both global and personal progress through either missions boards or under your transaction tab. The more you contribute relative to other Commanders, the better the bonus reward you’ll receive. Bonus rewards also improve with global progress (tier bar chart on the right). Click image for larger version.


17. PowerPlay

PowerPlay (PP) allows you to pledge your allegiance to one of 11 galactic personalities/powers and support them in their quest for territorial expansion. By visiting the PP interface, either through the systems panel or galaxy map, you can see what each of these powers stands for, which superpower they’re aligned to (i.e. Empire, Federation, Alliance or Independent), what effects they have on the systems they control, their current status and what you can do to help them. You can support your power by completing missions that assist:

  • preparation – preparing neutral inhabited systems for an expansion attempt
  • expansion – attempting to take control of prepared systems
  • control – fortifying control systems (i.e. those already owned by the faction)
  • opposing rival expansion attempts
  • undermining rival fortification efforts

Missions and terminology for each of these processes vary from faction to faction (see the PP interface for specific details), but essentially boil down to:

  • transporting “power commodities” between certain systems
  • pirating or killing specific ship types in relevant systems, either interdicting them SC (usually an illegal activity) or in special designated conflict zones; then handing in cargo or kill confirmations to “power contacts” at starports in control systems

Powerplay missions 1. Missions vary according to faction and function (see PP interface). For example, for Aisling Duval fortification involves collecting “Programme Materials” from the faction HQ in Cubeo and transporting them to control systems you wish to fortify. Click image for larger version.

Powerplay missions 2. Head to your rivals’ PP profile pages to see how to oppose and undermine them. For example, to undermine A. Lavigny-Duval’s fortification efforts you need to pirate “Garrison Supplies” from “Imperial Supply” vessels in her control systems. Click image for larger version.

Rating, rewards and PP cycles
All PP actions are rewarded with “merits” and a very small amount of credits (100cr per merit). If you gain enough merits your rating with the power will increase. A higher rating will improve your weekly rewards/salary, as well as increase your power commodity quota and unlock access to faction-specific gear (eg Prismatic shields for Aisling Duval, Retribution beam lasers for Edmund Mahon, etc). Each PP cycle lasts a week, at the end of which all preparation, expansion and control actions are resolved and your new rating is determined and salary paid. At the end of each cycle (normally 7am GMT on Thursdays, you should receive a warning the day before) you will lose half of your merits, plus any unclaimed vouchers or undelivered power commodities.

Note that if you’re looking to make money, then PP is not the place. You will need to grind extremely hard to achieve a rating with lucrative rewards and your time would be far better spent bounty hunting, trading, etc.

Powerplay rewards. Merits are earned from completing PP-related activities and increase your standing with your chosen faction. A better rating equals better rewards. Ratings are determined at the end of each PP cycle, which last a week.  Click image for larger version.

Power commodities and quotas
As mentioned above, the name of the these varies according to power and function. Power commodities are collected from and delivered to “power contacts” at relevant starports and limited by a collection quota. This starts off at 10 per 30 minutes but increases with your rating to a maximum of 50. If you have money to burn, you can fast-track your next allocation for 100,000cr (as many times as you want or can afford).

Powerplay commodities. These are collected from and delivered to the “power contact” at relevant ports. Initially you will be limited to 10 per 30 mins, but this increases with your rating or can be fast-tracked for 100,000cr a pop. Click image for larger version.

Leaving a power
You can choose to leave a power at any time, but you will lose all of your merits and will not be able to pledge to another power for 12 hours. If you choose to defect, you will transfer half of your merits over to the new power, but will be hunted down by the old power’s agents for a period of time (dependent on your rating).

It’s important to realise that by pledging allegiance to a power you will be considered “hostile” (you will be informed by your HUD as well as before jumping) when travelling through systems controlled by a rival power not aligned to the same superpower as your own power – e.g. Hudson (Federation) versus Lavigny-Duval (Empire). This means that NPCs/Commanders aligned to that power can legally attack you in those systems, whereas you cannot legally attack them or fight back. This is not the same as being wanted and you will be left alone by the police and will be able to dock/trade freely. More generally, you may also be harassed by NPCs when carrying out powerplay-related activities.

The metagame, command capital and consolidation voting
In order for your chosen power to succeed and grow, they need to manage their command capital (CC) wisely. CC is essentially a meta-currency gained from control systems and used to maintain their upkeep and fund expansion attempts. Successfully fortifying a system temporarily reduces its upkeep cost, whereas successfully undermining a revival’s system increases theirs (fortifying/undermining beyond 100% is a waste of time). An overall CC deficit can result in the loss of control systems (most expensive first) if a positive balance sheet is not restored within one cycle (this process is known as turmoil).

Command capital. The PP overview shows the power’s current galactic standing and their CC income, expenditure and surplus or deficit. Click image for larger version.

At the end of each PP cycle, up to nine systems that have reached the preparation threshold will be listed as potential expansion candidates, ordered according to the number of “preparation points” they attained during the week. From rating 2 and above (if you’ve been pledged for more than four weeks) you will be given a vote on what the power’s priority should be next PP cycle, to either: consolidate – invest CC in system defence; preparation – to invest CC in preparing candidates for an expansion attempt. Voting for consolidation raises the “consolidation line”. Only systems that end up above this line will become expansion candidates for the next cycle. The crucial factor to be considered in all this is how much a specific expansion attempt will cost and what its income and upkeep would be if controlled.

Preparation. Each cycle (if rating 2 or above) you will be able to vote on whether the power should prepare or consolidate. Any systems that end up above the consolidation line will become the next cycle’s expansion candidates. Click image for larger version.

Therefore it’s important for you and others who support your power to focus their efforts accordingly, such as which systems to fortify and which to prepare for expansion. You can find faction-specific discussions on current objectives, priorities, and strategies over on the official forums Powerplay area.

More detailed guides
My guide here is a simple introduction to PP that glosses over many of its more complicated aspects. If you want to learn more, then this unofficial Powerplay manual provides a detailed but slightly out of date guide on the mechanics. There’s also a helpful Powerplay Manual For Dummies and list of other Powerplay guides both hosted on the official forums. The Aisling Angels Powerplay guide is a particularly useful, up-to-date and easy to follow introduction.

18. Elite Dangerous: Horizons expansion and Beyond

Horizons, released December 2015, was the 2016/17 expansion (or “season 2”) to Elite: Dangerous. It brought new, exclusive features to the base game, most notably the ability to land on planets and explore their surfaces, characters known as Engineers, who can attempt to upgrade ship modules, ship-launched fighters, and multicrew co-op play.

For those who already own the base game, Elite Dangerous: Horizons is purchased as a DLC. It can also be purchased via the Elite: Dangerous Commander Deluxe Edition, which includes both the base game and the Horizons expansion. Horizons was free to all those who took advantage of the one-time Lifetime Expansion Pass offer, which is no longer available.

In 2018, Horizons is being followed up by the Beyond expansion (“season 3”). Beyond is free to all players, but many of its features improve and build upon those introduced in Horizons. Beyond updates will continue to be released throughout 2018.

A useful Horizons quick start guide can be found on the Elite: Dangerous community site.

18.1. Planetary flight and landing

At present only planets without an atmosphere (i.e. rocks/moons) can be landed on. If landing is possible, the planet will have a blue ship icon next to it the navigation tab of the target panel and a blue halo around it in the system map. The system map and navigation tab will also list any outposts (small buildings icon) and settlements (skyscraper icon) present on the surface. Settlements can be docked at and behave in similar way to starports, whereas outposts are points of interest (POIs) that can be explored and raided, and are the targets of certain missions. To explore the surface of a planet you will need to purchase a surface reconnaissance vehicle (SRV), jump to SRV basics section for more details.

Landfall planets.

Landfall planets. Planets that can be landed on have a blue ship icon next to them in the navigation tab. Planetary settlements that can be docked at are identified by the large buildings icon (e.g. Amundsen Vision) and planetary outposts have the small buildings icon (e.g. Pearse’s Claim). Click image for larger version.

Whether you intend to land directly on a planet’s surface or dock at a settlement, the initial steps are the same. First you need to target and approach the planet (or settlement/outpost) in SC. I still use the “6-second rule” for this (jump to Supercruise and interdiction section) and never go above 75% throttle once over the planet. As you get close (around 2Mm), your HUD will change to display your altitude and speed of descent. At an altitude of 600km you will enter a special form of SC known as orbital cruise (OC) and your HUD will now also display a pitch ladder (see annotated screenshot below).

At an altitude of around 25km your ship will drop from OC into normal flight. If your ship’s pitch is between -60 degrees and +5 degrees when this happens, you will enter glide mode and cruise at speed of 2500m/s until near to the surface. To abort this and enter normal flight immediately, simply raise the pitch to above 5 degrees. Note that while in normal flight above a planetary surface, your ship will have reduced manoeuvrability at slow speeds, as more thrust power is diverted into vertical thrusters in order to maintain your current altitude.

Annotated orbital cruise (OC) HUD.

Annotated orbital cruise (OC) HUD. Click image for larger version.

Landing at a settlement
Docking at a settlement is very similar to docking at an orbital outpost. However, you now have gravity to contend with and the stronger the gravity, the more careful (i.e. slower) you should be with your approach. Anything under 1G should be fairly straightforward. The trick is to drop out of OC between 50 and 80km from the settlement and glide in the rest of the way. If you drop out too early, you’ll end up too far away, and if you drop out too late you will overshoot or smash into the ground. Once within 7.5km, request docking then head over to your pad and land normally. See video below for a basic demonstration of settlement docking.

Landing on a planetary surface
Similar to above but when you drop out of OC, head to where you want to land (ideally somewhere relatively flat), reduce your altitude to less than 1km and disengage forward thrusters. When you deploy your landing gear, the scanner will display a surface relief map with a representation of your ship above it (see screenshot below). The projection disc will turn blue when above suitable terrain. Align the pitch ladder with the alignment bar using pitch and roll (it will turn blue when ok) and ascend slowly to the surface using your vertical thrusters. And remember, the higher the gravity, the slower and more careful you need to proceed. See video below for a basic demonstration of surface landing.

Surface landing.

Surface landing. When you deploy your landing gear the scanner will change to a surface relief map with a disc projecting where you will land, it turns blue above suitable terrain. You must also use pitch and roll to align the pitch ladder with the alignment bar, it will turn blue when your attitude is correct. Click image for larger version.

Taking off again
Sooner or later you’ll want to head back into the endless void. Simply use your vertical thrusters to leave the surface, point the ship upwards and then engage forward thrusters. Once you’re a few km above the surface you will no longer be mass locked and should be able to engage your FSD to either enter SC or perform a hyperspace jump (if your destination is not obstructed by the planet surface).

Finding points of interest (POIs) from the air
A variety of POIs can be found on the surface of planets, including small outposts, mining facilities, crash sites and stashes that can all be scavenged or pillaged for cargo. Curiously, nearly everything you encounter on the surface is considered “legal salvage”. Like signal sources in space, planetary POIs are randomly generated and not persistent.

When flying above 1.5km the general location will appear on your scanner as large blue circles, it helps if you zoom out your scanner. If you fly low enough, larger POIs can actually be seen from the air (turning your lights on helps with this). Alternatively, you can touch down and search for them with the SRV (jump to Finding materials and POIs using the SRV wave scanner section). Be warned that some POIs are protected by turrets and mobile sentries that will turn hostile if you get too close (you will see a warning on your HUD first) and that entering some outposts may count as trespass and land you a fine or bounty (again you will be warned first).


POIs appear on your scanner as large blue circles that can only be seen if flying above 1.5km. Zooming out your scanner makes finding them easier. Click image for larger version.

18.2. SRV basics

Purchasing and deploying an SRV
To explore the surface you need a surface reconnaissance vehicle (SRV), essentially a moon buggy with guns and shields. And who doesn’t want a moon buggy with guns and shields? These are purchased through the outfitting menu at ports, but first you need to install a planetary vehicle hanger in a module slot. More expensive versions will house multiple SRVs. Once you’ve done this, click on one of the vehicle bay slots to purchase an SRV (see screenshot below).

Buying an SRV.

Buying an SRV. This is done in the outfitting menu at starports. First you need to install a planetary vehicle hanger. Then click on one of the vehicle bay slots (highlighted in orange) to purchase an SRV. Click image for larger version.

SRVs are deployed once securely touched down on a planet’s surface, they can also be deployed when docked at settlements if you fancy a drive around town. The SRV deployment menu is found underneath your scanner by using UI focus + down or you can bind a key to “sensors panel”, which will also bring up the SRV menu (see screenshot below).

SRV panel is found underneath the scanner.

SRV panel is found underneath the scanner by using UI focus + down (I have a key bound to “sensors panel”). If you have more than one, you can also choose which vehicle you deploy. Click image for larger version.

Controlling an SRV
First, you will probably need to configure your controls – you’ll find the SRV options under the “driving” tabs in the control options. I use a keyboard and mouse setup and have copied in my bindings below as a guide (any controls not stated are set to default); obviously, you will want to set these to your own taste.

drive assist mouse 5 [hold]
srv pitch mouse y-axis roll pitch
steering left button A
steering right button D
roll left button Q
roll right button E
vertical thrusters left ctrl
fire SRV weapon mouse 1
operate datalink scanner G
handbrake space
headlights L
toggle SRV turret mouse 4
Driving targeting:
select target ahead T
Driving turret controls:
turret mouse x-axis yaw
turret mouse y-axis pitch inverted
Driving throttle:
SRV throttle increments continuous
accelerate button W
decelerate button S

Controlling an SRV is very similar to driving a car. However, you also have vertical thrusters that allow you to perform jumps and to slow your descent if you go over an edge. While airborne you can control both pitch and roll, useful for making sure you land on your wheels. Note that thrusters drain your engine capacitor. Be warned, the SRV is pretty fragile and will take hull damage (regardless of shield condition) from falls and collisions. Hitting a rock at speed, especially on a low gravity planet, can send you flying up into the air. It’s also prone to power sliding, especially on icy terrain. Drive assist allows you to maintain a constant speed of your choice (simply set the throttle while engaged) and is actually pretty useful.

The SRV’s cockpit looks and operates almost identically to a ship’s cockpit during OC, right down to having the same three-way power distributor. It is equipped with duel gimballed plasma repeaters, which have a limited supply of ammo. These can be fired from the normal cockpit view or from the turret camera, which sits on top of the SRV. You can still drive the SRV while in turret mode.

To scoop up materials and cargo, deploy your cargo scoop, target the item and simply drive over it. The SRV can only carry 2T of cargo, though you can carry up to 1000 materials (jump to Synthesis and materials section). The datalink scanner is for scanning data points and terminals that are found at outposts and POIs (jump to Using the SRV datalink scanner section).

Your SRV is magically repaired upon rejoining your ship; however, it will only be refuelled and rearmed when you dock at a port. Fortunately, you can repair, refuel and rearm your SRV from materials found on your travels (jump to Synthesis and materials section). If your SRV is destroyed, you will be given the option to rejoin your ship in orbit on the death/insurance screen at no cost, though you will need to head to a starport in order to purchase a new SRV.

Rejoining your ship
When you get too far away from your ship (more than 2km I think) it will take off and enter orbit (i.e. despawns, so is 100% safe). This will also happen if you quit the game. You can also dismiss your ship manually from the SRV menu (same place as in the ship’s cockpit). Use the SRV menu to recall your ship from orbit. It will touch down on the nearest piece of suitable terrain. To board your ship, drive under the illuminated bay – when in position the “board ship” indicator will light up (underneath the fuel gage on your dashboard). Then simply bring up the SRV menu and select board ship. Instead of boarding, you can choose to just transfer across your cargo.

Board ship 1. After recalling your ship, position your SRV underneath the vehicle hanger bay Click image for larger version.

Board ship 2

Board ship 2. Once correctly positioned the “board ship” indicator will light up Click image for larger version.

Board ship 3. Bring up the SRV menu (underneath your scanner) to board the ship or you can just choose to transfer any cargo across. Click image for larger version.

18.3. Synthesis, materials, and materials traders

Horizons introduced a looting and crafting mechanic that revolves around collecting materials, which come in four flavours: elements (also sometime referred to as “raw materials”), manufactured materials, data materials, and guardian materials. Materials take up no cargo space, how many you can carry depends on grade:

  • grade 1 (most common) – 300 each
  • grade 2 – 250 each
  • grade 3 – 200 each
  • grade 4 – 150 each
  • grade 5 (rarest) – 100 each

They are retained when your ship or SRV is destroyed (unlike bounties, combat bonds and exploration data). You can review collected materials in the inventory panel. Elements and manufactured materials are grouped together under “materials”, data materials are under “data”. They can be filtered. See below for a description on the main ways to obtain each type. Materials are sometimes also awarded for completing missions, can found at signal sources and planetary POIs, and can be obtained through megaship interactions.

materials inventory

Materials inventory. The materials you’ve collected can be viewed in the inventory panel. Their grade/rarity is indicated by the “petals” icon to the right, with 5 petals being the rarest. Select a specific material for more information. Click image for larger version.


Elemental materials
Elemental materials are primarily found on planetary surfaces (jump to Using the SRV datalink scanner section) and are required for both synthesis and Engineer upgrades.

Elements are harvested from the outcrops and meteorites scattered across planetary surfaces (jump to Finding materials and POIs using the SRV wave scanner section). Simply shoot them, target the fragments and drive over them with your cargo hatch deployed. A list of the materials you are carrying and the synthesis menu can be found in the inventory tab of the systems panel.

You can use the system map to determine the available elements and their relative abundance on a specific planet (see screenshot below).

Materials system map

The System map can be used to determine what elemental materials can be found on a planet’s surface Click image for larger version.

Manufactured materials
Manufactured materials are ingredients for Engineer upgrades. These are found at signal sources and planetary POIs; ships also drop them upon destruction. Which materials spawn is dependent on ship type and system state. For instance, pharmaceutical isolators only tend to spawn at signal sources in “outbreak” systems, whereas polymer capacitors only tend to be dropped by military and authority ships (in fact, a good but risky place to obtain these is at conflict zones).

The Elite Dangerous Engineering Database provides info on where each type of manufactured material is most likely to spawn, another useful resource is Cmdr Tango Indigo’s Rare Materials and Where to Find Them Reddit post. If you’re struggling to find a specific material, it’s also worth searching the forums as there is plenty of useful info on there.

Data materials
Data materials are ingredients for Engineer upgrades and can be acquired in several ways.

  • scanning ships – this is performed automatically when you target a ship and have visual on your HUD, and works in both SC and normal flight; it does not require any special modules.
  • scanning the data points you find at planetary outposts and crash sites
  • scanning private beacons you find at degraded/encoded emission signal sources
  • wake echoes are obtained by using a wake scanner (works the same as cargo or kill warrant scanner) to analyse the high energy wakes that are left behind by ships entering hyperspace; a good place to do this is just outside of starports or, even better, at the distribution centres found in high-population systems in a famine state (use the filter in the galaxy map to find these)

Guardian materials
Guardian blueprint and materials are special materials required by the Technology Broker for unlocking Guardian weapons and modules. In Elite: Dangerous lore, the Guardians were an ancient alien race and their ruins can be found throughout the galaxy. These materials can be obtained from exploring and interacting with ruin sites. A list of known Guardian ruin sites can be found on the Canonn Research Group website. You can also use Canonn’s interactive galaxy map to locate sites.

Synthesis allows you to do things like restock ship munitions (including chaff and heat sinks), top up your life support (if your canopy is blown) or increase FSD range for a single jump. They can also refuel, rearm and repair your SRV. Common materials are used for basic versions, but rarer materials can be used for “standard” and “premium” versions that provide certain bonuses such as increased damage for a single reload.

The synthesis menu

The synthesis menu is found in the inventory tab of the systems panel and shows you which items you can manufacture. Clicking on one will provide more details about which materials you have and which you need. Click image for larger version.

Materials traders
Materials traders can be found at some starports under the contacts menu. Once discovered, their locations can be revealed on the galaxy map using the services filter (within 40ly of your current position). Materials traders come in three varieties:

  • raw — trade in elemental materials
  • manufactured — trade in manufactured materials
  • encoded — trade in data materials

To trade, click the material you want, followed by the material you’re selling. Then choose the amount you wish to trade. The trade ratio depends on the rarity of the substances you’re exchanging. As you’d expect, rare materials are worth far more than common materials. A list of known materials traders is available through the INARA “nearest” tool and can be filtered by proximity to a specified system.

Materials trading

The Materials trader can be found under the contacts menu in some starports. Here I’m exchanging exceptional scrambled data (grade 1) for irregular emissions data (grade 2) and getting an exchange rate of 1:3. Click image for larger version.


18.4. Finding materials and POIs using the SRV wave scanner

Your SRV is equipped with a wave scanner that can be used to find both outcrops/meteorites and POIs. It’s a little bit daunting at first, but once you know what to look out for it’s actually quite easy. You’re looking for single bands or bands of two or three parallel lines. At range they will appear as indeterminate blobs, slowly resolving into distinct bands that decrease in size as you get closer. Also, the closer you get to an object, the more frequently the scanner will beep. Bands that appear in the lower half of the scanner tend to be outcrops/meteorites and those in the upper half tend to be POIs (see screenshots below).

Different meteorite and POI types have slightly different banding patterns and sounds. As mentioned earlier, some POIs are guarded by turrets and mobile sentries that will open fire if you trespass (you will receive a warning first). Curiously, any cargo found on the surface is usually considered “legal salvage”.

Wave scanner 1.

Wave scanner 1. At a distance, objects will appear as unresolved blobs. Click image for larger version.

wave scanner 2

Wave scanner 2. As you get closer they will start to resolve into distinct bands, decreasing in size the closer you get. The frequency of the beeping will also increase. Click image for larger version.

wave scanner 3

Wave scanner 3. When you get close enough the object will appear on your normal sensor and will also be highlighted by your HUD. Outcrops/meteorites are slightly different in colour and shape to other rocks. Shoot the rock and collect the materials by driving over with your cargo scoop deployed. Click image for larger version.

wave scanner 4

Wave scanner 4. Outcrops/meteorites form patterns in the lower half of the scanner, whereas POIs tend to form patterns in the upper half. Here I’ve found a crashed satellite. Click image for larger version.


18.5. Using the SRV datalink scanner

Data points and terminals can be found at some outposts and crash sites. Terminals are scanned to fulfil certain missions, whereas data points can be scanned to generate intel packages, as well as data materials. These packages will be of relevance to one of the three superpowers (check the transactions tab) and can be sold at a local security office in one of their ports. Scanning certain terminals can also be used to override security systems.

To scan a data point or terminal, simply target it and hold the assigned key until the process is complete (it will take a few seconds) – the scanner works in both normal and turret view. If there is more than one data point at a site, you will need to scan all of them within a given time frame to generate the intel package. If the timer expires you will need to start again – they can be attempted in any order and you receive a time extension for each one you scan. Note that scanning private data points is illegal – this info is displayed in turret view (see screenshot below).

Data point scanning Click image for larger version.

Data point scanning. This is the first of four data points. I have 60 seconds to get to the next one but will be awarded more time for each one I scan. Note that scanning private data points is a crime.  Click image for larger version.

Selling intel packages.

Intel packages will be relevant to one of the three major factions and can be sold at a local security office under their control. Click image for larger version.

18.6 Surface missions

With Horizons comes surface-specific missions. These are listed separately on missions boards and normally include a planetary horizon icon to the right of the description (see screenshot below). Note that some surface missions will send you to undiscovered planets and that you will need to either scan a nav beacon or use a discovery scanner to find your objective.

surface missions 2-1

Surface missions These are distinguished on the missions board with a planetary horizon icon to the right of the description Click image for larger version.

The variety of missions is very similar to that of space missions with a few notable exceptions, which I have listed below.

Salvage missions
These involve finding and delivering specific items found on planetary surfaces. Like other missions, using a discovery scanner or scanning a nav beacon reveals which planet to head out to. Once close enough, a search zone will spawn. As you head towards it, it will move several times, until the exact site is located. Land there, deploy your SRV and scoop up the cargo. Some sites will be protected by skimmers.

search zone

Search zones can be seen and targeted from high orbit. As you head towards one, it’s position will move several times until the exact site is located. Click image for larger version.

Cut the power missions
These involve heading to a named/persistent outpost then locating and destroying a specific power generator. Generators can sometimes be tricky to find as they don’t appear on your scanner until quite close. Also there are often several generators in an outpost and you need to destroy the correct one to complete the mission. These missions normally involve breaking the law (trespass and assault) and most outposts are defended by both turrets and mobile sentries (skimmers); these can be taken out by either your SRV or ship. High security outposts will also scramble fighters to protect themselves.

Sometimes access will be barred by a security forcefield; these can be disabled by either destroying the relevant power generator or using your datalink scanner on the associated terminal. The navigations tab provides an indication of the size and security level of persistent outposts.

power generator

Power generator. These don’t appear on your sensors until relatively close, so can sometimes be tricky to locate. There are normally several and you need to take out the right one to fulfil “cut the power” missions. Click image for larger version.

security barrier

Security barrier. These can be disabled by taking out the relevant generator or using your datalink scanner on the associated terminal. Click image for larger version.

Data missions
Similar to the cut the power missions, but instead you need to use your datalink scanner on a specific terminal.

Destroy skimmers/sentries
Pretty simple, destroy a specified number of skimmers (i.e. mobile sentry drones). The mission will name a specific planetary outpost, some of which will be heavily defended by numerous turrets and NPC ships as well as the skimmers themselves. Normally it will be a crime to attack to any of these. So, the trick to completing these missions with a minimum of risk is not going to directly to the stated base, but landing near it (within 10-50km). Search for POIs in the area, either with your ship or SRV wave scanner. Any skimmers found at these will belong to the mission target faction and most will be wanted, meaning you can destroy them without receiving a bounty. You can actually make a lot of money doing these missions.

18.7 Engineers

Engineers, introduced in 2.1, are persistent characters who are capable of modifying your ship’s weapons and modules. There are 20 in total, each with their own backstory and speciality, such as kinetic weapons or exploration equipment. Engineers reside in remote planetary base scattered across the galaxy and access to them is by invitation only. To acquire an invite you must first learn about them and then meet their basic criteria (this sometimes includes being on cordial terms with a named minor faction). At first, only five will be known to you; contact with others is established by working with known Engineers.

Once you gain access you will then need to complete a specific task in order to start working with them, such as providing them with a specified quantity of a rare or difficult to find commodity (e.g. meta-alloys or Soontill relics) or handing over a specified value of bounties vouchers or combat bonds. You can review known Engineers from the tab at the bottom of the systems panel.

Engineers tab 1. Access is in the bottom right corner of the status tab of the systems panel, alongside Galnet news, Holo-Me and Power Play. Click image for larger version.

Engineers tab 2. This displays a list of known Engineers and their requirements and your current status/reputation with them. Here you can see I have “grade 4 access” with Hera Tani and I’m around 60-70% towards gaining “grade 5 access”. This access level is essentially a reputation system. You can also view pinned blueprints here. Click image for larger version.

Inara’s Engineers page lists currently known Engineers, their specialities and blueprints, the possible modification outcomes, and how to receive an invite and unlock their services. A list of Engineers resources and guides can be found on the official forums.

Engineer modifications are rated by grade, with grade 5 offering the largest effects. Clicking on a grade will show you the outcomes and the materials required to craft that particular modification. All modifications result in both positive (blue circles) and negative (red circles) outcomes. The preview shows you both the current value and the maximum possible value for each attribute that will be changed. The circumference of the circle shows how close you are to maxing out that attribute for their current grade.

For each modification you wish to craft, you must first acquire the necessary ingredients. These include a wide variety of materials (jump to Synthesis and materials section), with higher grade modifications requiring rarer items. Be warned, finding and collecting these can be very time-consuming! However, you can find some information on how to find these by hovering your cursor over the ingredient name on the Engineers screen.

For each and every module, you start at grade 1 and must sequentially work your way through each grade. The first modification for each grade locks in the negative outcomes, which will then remain static for the rest of that grade. Each time you press the “generate modification” button, you spend the required materials and each attribute will increase or decrease in a predictable manner. Repeated modification will gradually move you towards the maximum possible values for that grade and will eventually unlock the next grade. The higher your reputation with the Engineer, the faster this will occur. Reputation improves as you craft modifications. A particular Engineer may not go up to grade 5 for all their available modifications.

Modifications 1. Here you can view the positive and negative outcomes for a particular modification at a specific grade. You can also see the list of required ingredients – hovering over one with the cursor will display a hint on how it can be acquired. Click image for larger version.

Modifications 2. Here I’m around 60% towards maxing out grade 5, as shown by the bar underneath the grade selector. Each circle shows the current value, maximum possible value, relative change (from baseline), and progression towards the maximum value for each attribute. Click image for larger version.

For each modification, you can also purchase an experimental effect. These include things like decreased weight, increased integrity, reduced power draw, or special ammo effects, amongst other things. See the INARA page for a full list of these. You can view the available experimental effects by clicking on the “experimental effect” button in the bottom right. Like modifications, these also must be bought using materials. However, the modifier values of experimental effects are fixed and don’t change between grades — so it doesn’t matter if you purchase one at grade 1 or grade 5. The can be removed and changed at any time.

Experimental effects can be applied to modified modules. Like standard modifications, they are bought using materials. The modifier values are fixed and don’t change between grades. Click image for larger version.

Lastly, you can also pin blueprints. This allows you to craft the pinned modification from the “remote workshop” option available at all starports. However, when remote engineering, you are unable to purchase experimental effects and gain no reputation with any of the Engineers.

18.8 Ship-launched fighters and NPC crew

As of 2.2, the following ships can install hangars that allow you to store and deploy ship-launched fighters (SLFs):

  • Imperial Cutter
  • Federal Corvette
  • Anaconda
  • Federal Gunship
  • Beluga
  • Type-9 Heavy
  • Keelback

Fighter hangars are installed like any other ship module and come in two classes, the 5D and 6D, having capacity for one and two fighters respectively. Like SRVs, clicking on the available fighter bay slots in the outfitting menu allows you to purchase SLFs. These come in three main flavours, each with their own strengths and weaknesses: the Federal F63 Condor, the Imperial Fighter, and the independent Taipan. Availability of these types will be system dependent. In turn, each individual model comes in several varieties, according to weapon loadout.


SLF outfitting 1. Fighter hangars are installed as an optional internal module. The 6D variety has the capacity for two fighters, but only one can be launched at any one time. Click one of the fighter bay slots to purchase an SLF. Click image for larger version.


SLF outfitting 2. There are three main types of SLF: the F63 Condor, Imperial Fighter, and Taipan. Each of these comes in several varieties, according to weapon loadout. Here, I’m using Imperial Fighters with fixed beam laser and a heat sink Click image for larger version.

Although the 6D hanger has the capacity for two SLFs, only a single fighter can be deployed at any one time. In addition to the current fighter occupying the bay, each individual slot is able to produce an additional seven fighters (via 3D printing or something). So if a fighter is lost, that bay will start constructing a replacement. However, this takes a few minutes. Therefore, by having a second slot you are able to immediately launch another fighter if the previous one is vaporised. Lost fighters and the components to construct new ones can be replenished at starports via the restocking menu.

NPC crew
For the sake of clarity, it is worth pointing out here that SLFs are flown remotely by “telepresence”. Apparently, the body in the cockpit doesn’t belong to anyone! So when a fighter is destroyed, no one dies. Controversial, I know, but let’s not get into a discussion about that now!

To make the most of your SLF, you need to hire some crew. You can launch a fighter without an active crew member, but you’ll only be able to order it to either follow you or hold position, and it will not partake in combat. The same applies to the mothership when you take controls of the fighter.

NPC pilots are hired at starports via the Crew Lounge. You can hire up to three, but currently, you can only set one active crew member (and this can only be done at starports). In addition to an initial one-off hiring cost, each crew member you take on board, regardless of whether they are active or not, will take a set percentage off all profits. Like you, NPC pilots hold a combat rank with the Pilot’s Federation, which will improve through active duty (i.e. dogfighting). This not only determines their ability but also their salary demands.

Lower ranking pilots are cheaper to hire and will take a smaller share of your profits. But as they rank up, they will demand a bigger cut. Crucially, a pilot “trained” from scratch will be less of a financial burden than one hired at a higher rank. For instance, a pilot hired at expert level will take a 12% share of your income. Whereas a harmless-ranked pilot will start at a 4% cut, increasing to 7% when they eventually reach the rank of expert. However, NPC pilots are lost when the mothership is destroyed (no escape pod for you peasant!), meaning you’ll have to train another one up or spend a bit extra to take on someone who can actually fly and shoot.

Note that you can only set active crew at the Crew Lounge in ports. And when you switch to a non-fighter ship and then back, you will need to set the active crew member again.


NPC Crew. I took on Harry “Mad dog” Wise when he was just a raw recruit, straight out of flight school and unable to hit an asteroid from 50m. Now he eats pirate scum for breakfast. Crucially, as I’ve trained him up from scratch (i.e. mostly harmless) he only takes a 7% cut, whereas if I took on a pilot starting at expert, they’d take a whooping 12%. Click image for larger version.

Launching fighters and issuing orders
Fighters are deployed and orders are issued through the same interface as SRVs, i.e. the panel below the sensors area (UI focus + down, or you can set a specific key). When you first launch a fighter, you need to choose which one to deploy (if you have two bays) and who’s going to fly it, you or your NPC pilot. Once deployed, you can switch between controlling the fighter and the mothership at any time. If you have an active crew member they will take over the controls of the other vessel.

The fighter is flown like any other ship in the game and has a near identical cockpit interface and layout. Note that the fighter will be lost if it veers more than 30km away from the mothership. It’s also lost if it doesn’t return to the ship before engaging your FSD. However, it doesn’t need to be docked before exiting the game.

A variety of orders can be issued either to your fighter or the mothership, depending on which one you are presently in control of. These include things like defensive and aggressive (engage at will) stances, holding position or to focus attack on your current target (usefully, they will continue to engage this ship even when you switch to a new target). Most of these can be assigned their own hotkeys. Regardless of whether or not you are flying the fighter, the docking sequence must be initiated before it can return to the ship. To dock manually, simply fly to the end of the blue holographic tunnel on the underside of the mothership.

The ship you’re not directly controlling will appear on your scanner as a green contact and an icon on the HUD will indicate current distance and direction. It’s shield/hull status and current orders are displayed on the right side of the dashboard, just above the status of the one you’re flying.

By the way, if you’re determined to improve your combat rank quickly, you might want to think twice before launching that SLF. NPC pilots take 50% of the progression points for each kill they’re involved in, as Frontier confirmed on Reddit.


Fighters 1. Fighters are launched via the interface below the sensors panel (UI focus + down). You need to choose which fighter to launch and whether you or an NPC pilot will fly it. Click image for larger version.


Fighters 2. A variety of orders can be issued either to your fighter or the mothership, depending on which one you are currently in control of. Click image for larger version.


Fighters 3. The fighter (or mothership) will appear on your sensor as a green contact and their position will also be indicated on the HUD. The status of their shields/hull and current orders are displayed on the dashboard, next to the schematic of your own ship. Click image for larger version.


18.9 The Commander creator (Holo-Me)

Known in the game (rather cringingly) as “Holo-Me”, the Commander creator allows you to completely customise the appearance of your avatar. It can be accessed either from the starport services menu (top right) or from the bottom right of the status tab of the systems panel. It’s pretty straight forward to use, but if you’re feeling lazy you can use one of the 50 presets or you can randomise each of the available features. You change your avatar at any time and as many times as you like, so knock yourself out. You may need to assign keys in the controls menu in order to rotate and quickly undo changes. Also, note that tattoos and some of the flight suits need to be purchased for real money from the Frontier store here.

Holo-Me. This is my rather imaginative concoction. A career in character design clearly awaits me! Click image for larger version.


18.10 Multi-crew

Multicrew allows up to three players to team up together on the same vessel, with the owner flying (Helm) and the others operating the turrets/scanners (Gunner) or ship-launched fighters (Fighter Con). Crucially, unlike with the wings mechanic, it uses a quick match system and players can hook up instantly regardless of where they are in the galaxy. Crew members are simply beamed in as holograms (“telepresence”) with their own ships safely despawning. When the session ends, the crew members are returned to their respective ships in their original locations.

Joining/creating a multi-crew session
You must be in the Open game mode first in order to participate in multicrew. The multicrew interface can be found in the second tab of the comms panel.

To create a session on your own ship, you can either invite specific friends (obviously they need to be online as well as currently in Open play) or open your ship up to complete strangers via a match making system. Simply click on the friend you want to invite or the “find crew” option. Only the following ships can be used for multicrew: Adder, Anaconda, Asp Explorer, Asp Scout, Beluga, Cobra MkIII & MkIV, iClipper, iCutter, F Corvette, F Assualt Ship, F Dropship, F Gunship, Fer-de-Lance, Orca, Python, Type-9, Vulture. To join someone else’s vessel click on the “join another ship” option.

Before joining a multicrew session, each player must select a planned activity from a predefined list, eg bounty hunting, piracy, mining, etc. These come with their own rulesets, which you should read carefully. Breaking these rules could see you automatically kicked from the session (eg shooting at ships with a clean status). Not only does this system allow for players intentions to be matched with each other, but also helps prevent griefing/trolling.

When first joining another Commander’s ship, you must select a role from those available. This is done through the same interface used to deploy SRVs and ship-launched fighters, i.e. the panel below the sensors area (UI focus + down, or you can set a specific key in the controls menu for “role panel”). By returning to the mothership’s interior view and heading to the role switch panel, it is possible to change role (if available).

Once in a session, the comms panel can be used to leave or close a session, activate/deactivate voice chat, mute other crew members, send text messages and friends requests, and even block players from future sessions. The history tab handily keeps track of who you’ve recently played with.

If you’re accidentally disconnected (unfortunately, this happens a lot at the moment), you will be given the choice to rejoin the session (if still active) when you load back into the game.

Multi-crew 1. The multicrew interface can be found in the second tab of the comms panel. To create a session on your own ship, either click on a friend to invite them (they must be open play first) or on “find crew” to open your ship up to strangers via a matchmaking system. To join someone else’s ship, click “join another ship”. Click image for larger version.

Multi-crew 2. Prior to joining or creating a multi-crew session, you must select from a list of planned activities. You will only be matched up with players who select the same intention. Each activity comes with a rule set – breaking one of these rules can result in you being automatically kicked from the session, so do behave! Click image for larger version.

Multi-crew 3. When you first enter another Commander’s ship you will need to choose from the available roles. Here, one of the fighters is being controlled by another player, so I can either choose between the other fighter or the gunner role. Click image for larger version.

If you own the ship, you will always take the Helm – it is not possible to swap seats with the other crew members. The Helm pilots the ship and controls all ship functions and fixed/gimballed weapons. Control of turreted weapons and ship-launched fighters is lost when those systems are taken over by another player. While in multicrew mode, is not possible to hand control of the vessel over to an NPC (meaning you yourself can’t fly one of the ship-launched fighters).

The Helm can kick crew members or end the session at any time. They can also use the functions tab during a multi-crew session to disable the fighter con or limit the gunner to just weapons and scanners – pretty useful for gunners who seem intent on spamming all your shield cell banks and heat sinks.

Multi-crew options. The helm can disable the fighter con and limit the gunner to just weapons and scanners via the functions tab. Click image for larger version.

The Gunner controls all turreted weapons, as well as sharing control of scanners (eg manifest, kill warrant, etc ) and utilities (chaff, heat sinks, etc) with the Helm. You start off in first-person view, where you can’t do much other than look around the cockpit, set your pip (see below) and customise your fire groups in the systems panel (just like in your own ship, but with an extra two fire buttons to assign). However, by switching to the outside third-person view (see screenshot), you’re able to fire/use the weapons, scanners and utilities available to you. Controls are very much the same as it would be in your own ship, though you may need to set some keys first in the controls menu under the multicrew section. For instance, you need a key to switch between the inside and outside views.

Gunner interface. Although the gunner’s third-person view allows 360 rotation around the mothership, weapon firing is limited by hardpoint placement (this doesn’t affect scanners). You can also zoom in/out slightly, but you may need to bind keys in the controls menu first. Click image for larger version.

Fighter Con
Like the Gunner, the Fighter Con starts off in the mothership’s cockpit. From here you can either launch a fighter or switch to one that’s already deployed. You can swap between the fighter and the mothership at any time. Flying a fighter is almost identical to flying any other small ship (jump to Ship-launched fighters and NPC crew section). It’s possible for the Helm to send you orders, including a request for you to dock the fighter. Remember that active fighters are lost during jumps and that they cannot veer more than 30km from the mothership.

The fighter’s multicrew interface works in a very similar fashion to that presented when you team up with wingmen. At the top of the screen you can see the status (hull and shields, where relevant) and current targets of your crew mates. You can set up hot keys (under “targeting” in the controls menu) that allow you to quickly select your crew mates or their targets.

Fighter interface. Just as with wings, the status and current targets of your crew mates are displayed at the top of the screen. Click image for larger version.

Bonus power distribution pips
Each crew member is given a pip that they can assign to any category (sys/eng/wep) in the mothership’s power distributor. This is done in the same way as you would do in your own ship. For the Fighter Con, this can only be done when using the mothership interior view, but the Gunner can also assign their pip while in the third-person view. Note that no category can exceed a total of four pips.

Multi-crew pips. Each crew member gets their own power distributor pip to assign in addition to the helm’s. Mine is blue and currently allocated under sys. Click image for larger version.

Possible crew combinations
Depending on the configuration of the ship (ie availability of weapons, NPCs and fighter bays), the following combinations are possible:

  • helm + one gunner + one human-controlled fighter
  • helm + one gunner + one human-controlled fighter + one NPC-controlled fighter
  • helm + two human-controlled fighters

Risks and rewards
As it’s their ship, the Helm takes all the risk. On the event of ship destruction, crew members are returned safely to their own ship (without penalty) and the owner is left looking at a rebuy screen. The good news is that the insurance cost is reduced by over half for a fully-crewed ship.

In terms of rewards, bounty claims and combat bonds are duplicated for each crew member. However, whereas the Helm always gets 100% of the value, what crew members receive is dependent on how their combat rank compares to the Helm. Essentially, the higher your rank, the more you’ll get (up to 80% of the reward value according to Frontier). Currently, crew members also receive a 10% dividend from trading profits but nothing from mission payouts. Faction reputation is unaffected for the Gunner and Fighter Con.

At the end of a multi-crew session (either by disconnection or exiting), you’ll be presented with a report. Here you can choose to accept or decline the financial rewards. By accepting the payouts, you also take on any fines incurred during the session. Any bounties are converted into active fines.

Multi-crew report

Multi-crew report. At the end of a session, you will receive a report of how everyone performed and what they earned. Be warned that by choosing to accept the payouts, you will also take on any fines incurred during the session. Click image for larger version.

18.11 Technology Brokers

Technology Brokers can be found at some starports under the contacts menu. As with Materials Traders, once discovered, their locations can be revealed on the galaxy map using the services filter (but only within 40ly of your current position).

These guys deal in blueprints for high-tech weapons and modules — including alien (Guardian) technology — that can’t be found anywhere else. These blueprints can only be bought using materials and commodities. Once unlocked, the modules can be purchased and fitted to your ship at an outfitting yard.

A list of known Technology Brokers is available through the INARA “nearest” tool and can be filtered by proximity to a specified system. INARA also has recipes lists for unlocking all the known Technology Broker wares.

Technology Broker

Technology Brokers can be found under the contacts menu in some systems. They deal in blueprints for special weapons and modules that can’t be found anywhere else. These can only be bought with materials and commodities. Click image for larger version.



58 thoughts on “Elite: Dangerous – a comprehensive beginner’s guide

  1. Thank you for writing this. I am new to the game and found it very informative. But it makes me wonder, where did you learn all this? The game manual and training missions don’t come even close.


    • Thanks, glad you found it useful. Well, I have been playing since summer 2014, when it was in beta. Plus I learned a lot from reading forums etc, and I’m a veteran of the original games back from the 1980s/90s.

      I’m hoping to do an update soon that includes the recent planetary landings expansion


  2. Pingback: Elite: Dangerous – one year on | the cake is a lie: a nostalgic gaming blog

  3. Pingback: Moving on… | the cake is a lie: a nostalgic gaming blog

  4. I hear they nerferd the Solo play option but I cant find it really documented anywhere.
    Do you have any information on this? Really enjoyed your write up and Im sure I’ll be using it often 🙂


    • Not sure what you mean by nerfed? Solo is exactly the same game as Open and Private Group. All three game modes take place in the same shared and persistent universe. However, in solo you will never be instanced with other human players.


  5. Thanks for the info, by Nerf I meant I read that solo mode had been dropped and would now just place you in a universe with other players same as open mode.


    • No, there’s no truth to that. I don’t FD would ever get rid of solo mode, they’d anger far too much of their player base – a lot of people still haven’t forgiven them for there being no true offline mode.


  6. Hello I am a newbie with EB and its been very frustrating The question I have is when you set up you key binding which one do u use to do this u have KB Custom empty and 1 more


    • I would just edit the one it defaults to, it will switch to custom once you start changing things anyway. Also, if you go to: C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Frontier Developments\Elite Dangerous\Options\Bindings\ you’ll find a file called custom. If you duplicate it and rename, it will show up in the control options with the new name.


  7. This is strange the file Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Frontier Developments\Elite Dangerous\Options\Bindings, or C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Frontier Developments\Elite Dangerous\Options\Bindings doesnt show up while doing a search on my HD?? and thxs Ill try it.


    • Just checking, but you have substituted the USERNAME part? Anyway, it should be there. That’s were all the ED settings are stored.


  8. Pingback: Massive update to my Elite: Dangerous guide | the cake is a lie: a nostalgic gaming blog

  9. Hi, thanks a bunch this is super helpful.

    I’m a complete noob (like 3 hours) and I’m trying to pick up a collector limpet controller like you recommended. I tried both the dock I spawned at, and the nearest starport, and neither of them have it under Optional Internal:

    http://imgur.com/a/CrFQH (There’s one more item below, it’s surface scanners I think). It’s not under Prospecting Limpets. Am I doing something wrong?


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi. No, you’re not doing anything wrong. You find them under “collection limpets”. However, module stock varies considerably between starports, so sometimes you can’t find what you’re looking for, especially in low population systems. When module shopping, the best places are high population systems with a high-tech economy.


  10. This is a great write up and very appreciated! I do have one issue and only one…..why did you not include smuggling as a career path? I made 100 million bucks doing that over a month or two of casual play, from Robigo to wherever, but there is quite a few systems that have great smuggling missions available. I also however found out the hard way what happens when you have no extra money to pay for that nice ship that got shot down by 7 cops after a measly lil (large) burst laser hit one…..I now fly a viper again…=(

    Thanks again though, you did a great job!


    • After a simple re read, just to make sure i wasn’t missing it, I notice you did cover smuggling to a degree. Fair enough, fair enough. My apologies.


      • Thanks. You’re right, you can make serious money from smuggling and I have done so myself in the past. I do cover smuggling as part of piracy and it’s also mentioned in passing in a few other sections, but maybe in a future update I’ll give it more of a dedicated section.


  11. Excellent guide Stevie, good work, bravo! A question about docking. Usually I direct the front of the ship toward the pad’s number, but in some spaceports it’s the opposite. Is there a way while docking, except try & error, to understand where to point at? Thanks a lot


    • Thanks. Personally, I’ve not noticed this varying between starports. Generally, you want the whole ship perpendicular to the pad, which often means pointing the nose higher than you think. I find that how much leeway you get depends on the ship, with bigger ships being less forgiving of angle. Also, you need to be mindful of where the cockpit sits in relation to the rest of the ship when determining where to “aim”.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I haven’t read single a drop of this but it appears, at least at first glance, to be a well thought out resource for ED. Perhaps evening a living document if we’re lucky. Thanks Steve, may the gods forever be in your favor.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hey steviegill,

    As a returning player from before horizons launched, your guide is amazing and i hope you keep it up to date. Trying to pick everything back up and figure out all the new things is harder than i expected. You managed to boil down all the new systems into manageable chunks and i really appreciate that.

    I currently dont trust myself to fly my a rated conda atm. Ill probably go out and set up a cobra or an asp for doing missions to learn more about the horizons expansion.

    Stay safe commander, o7
    CMDR ForgottenAmnesia


    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s probably a good idea to use a cheaper ship for a while, as a lot’s changed since then. Besides, there’s a lot of fun to be had in flying around in the smaller, more agile vessels. Good luck and fly safe…


  14. Masterfully done sir! I have been playing (solo, PS4) for about a week now and your guide has been invaluable. I lament not having ever played the predecessors, however, I was a Wing Commander fan back in the day. I just purchased ED for the PC (via Steam) as well and discovered that you can’t play the same commander. Initially I was dismayed, however, I quickly got over that when I realized that I could just play my evil altar ego commander when I play on the PC in open.

    Thanks again for your stellar work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, appreciated! Yeah, I used to love the Wing Commander games as well. I also really liked Freelancer. But for me, none of those games quite scratched that Elite itch.

      That’s a shame you can’t carry your Commander over. But I imagine ED is better to suited to PC than PS4, just for all the key binding possibilities!

      I’ll have to update the guide again soon, with all the new changes coming to Engineers and Crime and Punishment.


  15. Well done! You don’t happen to have a PDF version of it, do you? Turning pages on a tablet suits long documents a bit better than scrolling a very long bar.


    • Thanks. Unfortunately, I don’t have a PDF version of the guide. You could try using a tool/plugin to print the webpage to a PDF file, though I imagine the result won’t be perfect.

      But yeah, it is getting very long. When I first started the guide, I didn’t intend for it to be so lengthy and comprehensive. But I just kept adding to it and adding to it. I enjoy doing it, plus I’ve been encouraged by all the positive feedback I’ve received. At some point, I may have to start splitting the guide into separate pages!


  16. Echoing the thanks already expressed by others. I bought Elite Dangerous years ago in a Steam sale but then life got in the way. Finally committed to take the plunge two months ago, bought a HOTAS, and was able to start playing last week (instead of reading about how to play, because I initially started it up and was immediately intimidated). I would be absolutely lost and clueless without experienced players like you sharing your knowledge, advice, and expertise in such a succinct, focused, and easy to follow write-up. A hearty 1,000,000 thank you’s for your time, willingness to share, and lighting the possible paths for us Elite Dangerous virgins.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Great guide mate….helped me immensely…..one thing you might wanna put (stumped me as a beginner) is that when landing on a pad you need to be facing the correct direction ie ship facing forwards on the land scanner readout…..the amount of times i couldn’t land on a pad because i was 180 degrees out was pretty frustrating in the beginning.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, yeah, I forgot about that! After a while, you start to take these things for granted. I’ll add something in.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Ahhhh good old Freelancer! I played that game a lot back in the day! Then it was EVE Online forever and a day and now I’m trying this out.

    Just finished going through your ED guide and I’ve got to say it’s amazing. So much invaluable information that the game doesn’t even attempt to teach you during the training mission.

    I’m sure I’ll be referencing this guide for awhile as I tackle the learning curve. Thanks again and keep up the good work!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Great work! I did find one very minor error. Under the image “Passenger cabins 2” there is written “Parties can be upgraded but downgraded.” Perhaps you meant “Parties can be upgraded but ~~not~~ downgraded.” For all the new and the clueless like myself, thanks for the time and effort you put into this. It should be required reading for all pilots.


    • Haha yeah, that’s obviously a typo and I’m sure there are plenty more! Anyway, I’ve corrected it now. Thanks for pointing it out.


  20. Just wanted to drop a line, I started in June 2018, and before I bought the game, I read about 50% of this whole post. When I started I instantly rebound keybindings, and away I went, everything just made sense. This is a wonderful tool for players, and I still go back to it. I even taught my friend a thing or two from this, and he has been playing for 3 years.

    Liked by 1 person

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