Elite Dangerous – Exploration Guide & Walkthrough (2023)

The scope of exploration in this game is extremely straightforward. The main focus involves piloting your ship to anywhere in the galaxy, where you may find all sorts of exotic views, lifeforms, or cosmological bodies, all of which may have never been seen before. It should be noted that exploration is definitely not an activity suited to all players in Elite: Dangerous, as it can easily prove tedious and time consuming for some. When exploring, you must maintain a specific mindset dedicated to time efficiency and satisfaction, otherwise, you may find yourself tired or unwilling to travel often. This guide will explain ways to counteract this, and how to prepare yourself to achieve your maximum potential when travelling among the stars.

It should be immediately noted that ship selection for exploring is based entirely on preference, and your choice will be influenced by travel speed, looks, efficiency, etc. Any ship can theoretically explore, however, some ships are far more intrinsically proficient at being practical for the many desires of an explorer. The most common preference is being practical for surface and vacuum exploration whilst also maintaining a good light-year jump range.

The most common utility-based ships in the small category are as follows:

-Adder (Top Range of 32ly*)

-Cobra MK. 3 (Top Range of 28.5ly*)

-Diamondback Explorer (Top Range of 41.6ly*)

-Dolphin (Top Range of 35.1ly*)

-Sidewinder (Top Range of 24.4ly*)

These ships, while small, are most commonly preferred for mobility, intrinsically high jump range, and decent functionality in travelling. The major downsides of these ships are their relatively low jump ranges when compared to medium or large ships, and their subpar fuel scoop rate. With engineering, these ships can achieve ranges of over 30ly.

The most common utility-based ships in the medium category are as follows:

-Asp Explorer (Top Range of 38.1ly*)

-Krait Phantom (Top Range of 34.8ly*)

-Python (Top Range of 30.5ly*)

These medium ships provide good leniency, and by extension, utility, in the form of optional module space, while also offering considerable fuel economy due to their Frame Shift Drive size. With engineering, these ships may easily achieve ranges of 40ly. (Module sizes and fuel economy will be explained later.)

The most common utility-based ships in the large category are as follows:

-Anaconda (Top Range of 41.5ly*)

-Type 7 Transporter (Top Range of 29.7ly*)

-Type 10 Defender (Top Range of 25.8ly*)

-Federal Corvette (Top Range of 21.2ly*)

*Values may range far higher when the vessel is optimized with modules and engineering

These large ships provide excellent leniency with bountiful amounts of internal space, complimented by their excellent hull strength with minimal engineering. The major downsides of these ships are their slowness, and somewhat poor fuel economy, exasperated by larger Frame Shift Drives. With engineering, these ships can achieve ranges of 50ly or greater, and the Anaconda is the furthest jumping of any ship, with a potential range of 90ly.

(Video) Beginner's Guide to Exploration in Elite Dangerous | Friendship Drive Guides

Each ship in Elite: Dangerous has modules sorted by size and cla*s, while also being governed as Core or Optional. Core Modules are modular, as the name implies, and provide critical functionality to a vessel. Optional modules are modular also, and provide extra amenities that make the task of the vessel far easier to achieve.

Core modules are cla*sified as compartment and module:

⋅Bulkheads and Hull Bulkheads

⋅Reactor Bays and Power Plants

⋅Thruster Mountings and Thrusters

⋅Frame Shift Drive Housing and Frame Shift Drive

⋅Environment Control and Life Support

⋅Power Coupling and Power Distributor

⋅Sensor Suite and Sensors

⋅Fuel Store and Fuel Tank

For the sake of clarity, module cla*s, represented by numbers 1-8, are responsible for determining the size of a module type, and can be slotted into any ship’s compartments that are designated specifically for it, in the case of core modules, or into any compartment equal to or below the cla*s of the module, in the case of optional modules.

Rating, measured from E-A, determine the efficiency of a module, and A rated modules perform the best. Keep in mind that certain ratings have boons specific to that module, wherein A rated perform the best, and are fairly heavy. B rated modules are exceptionally heavy, and decently efficient, C rated are cost effective, D rated are the lightest, and E rated are garbage.

Here is the breakdown for the functionality of each Core Module:

Bulkheads dictate the hull health and protection values of a ship. Specifically, they provide absolute hull health, which determines the ship’s overall health, resistances, in the form of kinetic, thermal, and explosive (and are not necessary in exploration), and armour hardness, a value intrinsic to each ship model, which typically increases with larger ships, and reduces the amount of damage taken by a flat amount. There are 5 Bulkheads available in Elite: Dangerous, each providing absolute health bonuses and resistance bonuses, all of which can be augmented positively or negatively with engineering. For the sake of loquaciousness, Lightweight Alloys are the preferred bulkhead type in exploration, as engineering them to increase absolute hp does not increase their ma*s, an important factor in jump range.

Power plants are nuclear fusion reactors, which consumes the hydrogen isotope deuterium, the most common form of hydrogen found in stars. The cla*s and rating of power plants will determine their heat and power output, measured in % and mW, respectively. In exploration, it is wise to choose a plant that is either A or D rated, and of the minimum cla*s, to avoid any excess ma*s. This usually means managing power priorities in larger ships.

Thrusters propel a vessel in space, and their cla*s and rating determine how effective they are at generating propulsion. Higher cla*s thrusters are almost always required on larger ships, as a thruster kit that cannot propel a sufficient ma*s will strand the vessel. With surface exploration, it is generally recommended to bring thrusters which can propel the ship comfortably, as insufficient thrusters cannot operate well against gravity, which increases the chances of death by kinetic impact.

The Frame Shift Drive is the most critical module in exploration. The cla*s and rating of a frame shift drive affect its weight and maximum light-year jump range. A higher jump range also means less fuel consumed overall, as it is more efficient at its task. Engineering can nearly double a ship’s top jump range and it should be known that the combined ma*s of a vessel will directly affect the jump range of said vessel. Expanding onto this, you can purchase even more potent drives with materials at human material brokers. The FSD will overheat the ship in close proximity to heat sources, and will also throttle down in the presence of gravity. In exploration, choosing the absolutely highest cla*s and rated drive is crucial. Better FSDs can afford longer trips, allowing you to really indulge in the wonders of the cosmos.

Life Support is critical in the well-being of a pilot during exploration. The cla*s and rating of life support modules affect their reserve oxygen amount and weight. In exploration, it is critical to keep the health of the life support module and the canopy high, as depressurization or module failure can mean certain death if far from a station. Keep in mind, oxygen synthesis via iron and nickel can prevent death, but is only a temporary solution.

The power distributor is a superfluous module in exploration. The cla*s and rating of distributors dictate their weight and total charge dedicated to SYS, ENG, or WEP. SYS governs energy output to modules like shield generators, ENG governs thruster speed, and WEP determines the capacitor capacitance for hardpoints. In exploration, it is almost entirely unused, with the exception of shielded vessels or surface work, where increased shield and/or thruster output may be necessary in preventing collisions.

The sensor suite is critical in safely guiding a pilot during exploration. The cla*s and rating of sensors dictate their weight and scan distance. Engineering is primarily used to cut down on weight. In exploration, sensors are required to engage sonar to determine distance on planets, or to hail starports and fleet carriers.

The fuel tank is absolutely vital in getting a ship to function properly. The cla*s of a tank determines a tank’s hydrogen fuel capacity, in tons. In exploration, a higher fuel tank means more jumps can be executed without refuelling, however, the weight of the fuel will add to a ship’s ma*s, decreasing jump range.

Optional modules in vessels are optional, and should be determined by player preference when building the ideal exploration vessel. Some of the prime choices include:

-Detailed Surface Scanner, required for mapping planets for maximum credit gain

-Fuel Scoop, for maintaining fuel capacity when exploring

-Auto Field-Maintenance Unit, required for repairing damaged modules

-Planetary Vehicle Hangar, for driving and making Exobiology Easier

-Supercruise Assist, for autopilot in supercruise only

-Advanced Docking Computer, for autopilot when landing on planets or ports, starport or otherwise

-Shield Generator, for extra protection in case you collide with an object

-Research Limpets, for pulling commodities off of oddities you can encounter

-Cargo Racks, for storing any commodities you can encounter

A fuel scoop is REQUIRED for exploration. The cla*s and rating determine the scoop rate for a vessel. Keep in mind that a Detailed Surface Scanner should also be equipped, if you are exploring for profit. An SRV should also be equipped if exobiology or planetary mining is to be utilized, for either data or raw material gathering for synthesis (explained later). Supercruise a*sist is a good alternative to manually flying to a destination, and can be used with the 6 second rule (75% throttle at 6 seconds to destination) to arrive at a location faster. Recall also that certain cla*ses and ratings of modules can add or detract to certain statistics of a ship.

Engineering will aid you in getting the absolute most out of your vessel. There are lots of modifications to choose from, and this guide will help establish proper choices to maximize the efficiency of your vessel. Engineering is extremely complicated, but there are multiple internet guides to help. I would recommend this site by CMDR Exigeous. – [edtutorials.com] Regardless, once you have materials, it’s time to crack down and really augment your ship into something great.

Here are the best modifications to choose from, and why they are as such:

⋅Bulkheads – Lightweight Alloys: Heavy Duty Engineering, Deep Plating Experimental. This is the best for absolute hull hp.

⋅Power Plant – Ideal Cla*s/Rating: Low Emissions Engineering, Stripped Down. This is best for keeping temperatures low, as well as ma*s. If you cannot achieve the proper energy output, you can overcharge the plant in order to sustain your ship while optimizing ma*s. Otherwise, buy a higher cla*s plant and then undercharge.

⋅Thrusters – Ideal Cla*s/Rating: Clean Engineering, Stripped Down. This is usually the go to combination for thrusters, but you can use drive distributors or drag drives instead of s*ripped down if your thrusters could use a slight boost to speed. Drag Drives are the best for speed, but not for heat.

⋅Frame Shift Drive – Ideal Cla*s/Rating: Increased Range Engineering, Ma*s Manager Experimental. This should ALWAYS be used for exploration, however, lighter ships may benefit from Deep Charge, but this is exceptionally unlikely, since small ships do not have high fuel scoop rates.

⋅Life Support – Ideal Cla*s/Rating: Lightweight Engineering. If you want to be safe and do not mind extra weight, use reinforced or shielded for module hp.

⋅Power Distributor – Ideal Cla*s/Rating: Charge Enhanced Engineering, Stripped Down Experimental. This is almost always the best setup for most ships, but s*ripped down can be swapped for a different experimental based on preference.

⋅Sensors – Ideal Cla*s/Rating: Lightweight Engineering. This is the only modification you will ever need for sensors, unless you need to keep the module health high.

Like previously stated, optional modules are based on preference. This is especially the case for their engineering options. Here are some more optimal engineering choices for optional modules:

⋅Detailed Surface Scanner – Expanded Probe Scanning Radius

⋅Auto Field-Maintenance Unit – Shielded

⋅Limpets – Any role type: Lightweight or Reinforced

⋅Shield Generator – Ideal Cla*s/Rating: Enhanced Low Power Engineering, Reinforced Engineering, Hi-Cap Experimental, Lo-Draw Experimental, Stripped Down Experimental

Again, these all depend on preference, but all should focus on sustainability or weight management, depending on what you want out of your vessel. There are a lot of more options out there to choose from, each providing something unique, however, many of the engineering choices may not appeal to exploration. I would advise doing your own research on the Elite Dangerous Fandom. – [fandom.com]

(Video) Elite Dangerous - Exploration Guide - Part One (The Basics)

Now that you’ve read up and properly kitted your vessel for exploration, it’s time to hit the galactic road. Without prior experience, however, entering into the far reaches of the galaxy is extremely dangerous for a pilot unaware of the dangers of travel. A competent explorer must learn the proper ways to keep fueled in space, as well as ways to plot routes, find starports, or discover extraterrestrial planets and stars. You must specifically learn how to:

⋅Fuel Scoop

⋅Maintain your vessel in the event of damage

⋅Discover distinctly new star systems

⋅Proper usage of the galactic map

⋅Use third party sites, like http://eddb.io – [eddb.io], or http://inara.cz – [inara.cz] to locate Points of Interest, such as popular destinations or starports

⋅Different Ways to Travel, especially with plotting routes and using the third party site http://spansh.co.uk – [spansh.co.uk] to use Neutron Plotting, a special method of travel

⋅Use synthesis to prolong the operation or bolster the properties of a vessel or SRV

To get started, Fuel Scooping is the first method you should practice. With a fuel scoop equipped and powered, approach a star. This will heat up your vessel, but the closer you approach, the faster you scoop. The most effective way to scoop is to speed up to max speed, and essentially “ride” the star – that is, keeping close to the exclusion zone (a yellow orbit line that will drop you out into regular space if you breach it) until you reach maximum fuel, and then flying away to explore further. Practice this method until you get it right. It may take time and effort. Additionally, you must be vigilant about ‘star density’, which is the term for the overall volume of stars in relation to the player’s position. Lower star densities make scooping harder, and make it far easier to become stranded without sufficient jump range.

Secondly, maintaining your vessel is quite difficult if you have never explored. The Advanced Field-Maintenance Unit will repair your vessel in the event module damage occurs. However, sometimes you will need to repair the vessel hull directly, and you can utilize the aforementioned links to find starports to dock at and repair.

Expanding upon the second bulleted notion, synthesis is a powerful way to bolster certain properties of your vessel or your SRV. Using elements or certain engineering alloys/compounds, you can synthesize an array of different components, which can do things like boosting your jump range, by x1.25, x1.5, or x2, increasing the fuel efficiency or hull integrity of your SRV by x1.25, x1.5, or x2, among many others. Preparing with these snytheses can greatly help you if you make mistakes, most of which are inevitable with newer players. Raw ingredients are notable for their use in FSD injections, and all the component elements can be found when using an SRV planetside. To find raw ingredients, it is possible to follow radar signals on the SRV until they become more concentrated, after which an outcrop will appear which can be shot to break them into their elemental components, which can then be collected.

Expanding upon the fourth bulleted notion, you must learn how to filter the galactic map to avoid stranding yourself without fuel. The Yerkes spectral cla*sification makes its debut in this regard, and helps filter stars. Stars, filtered with the star cla*s option, will be broken down into O, B, A, F, G, K, M, L, T, Y, Proto, Carbon, WR, WD, and Non Sequence. O,B,A,F,G,K, and M are the solar bodies that can be fuel scooped. Other stars cannot. It is wise to filter only by these stars in order to reduce the probability of becoming stranded.

Next up, it is important to learn how to discover bodies in system. To start, bind your Discover Scanner (it’s automatically installed in every ship) to a fire group in the right-hand panel. Firing this will allow you to use the Full Spectrum System Scanner. With the default key ” ‘ “, you can open this scanner. Doing so will present you with a range scanner that provides certain wavelengths that correspond with certain planets. You must pan the camera until you find a wavelength, accentuated with a blue smudge and dotted white circle, and then tune the scanner until the circle becomes solid white, after which you can zoom in to discover a planet. Repeating this will allow you to discover an entire system. Here is a visualization to help understand the function of the scanner:

Elite Dangerous – Exploration Guide & Walkthrough (1)

Credit: Elite: Dangerous Fandom – [fandom.com]

Expanding upon this image, there are certain planet types. Certain planet types can be scanned in various ways, and more thorough scanning provides a higher payout later on. Here is a visualizer of all planetary and solar values:

Elite Dangerous – Exploration Guide & Walkthrough (2)

Credit: Elite: Dangerous Reddit – [reddit.com]

The color coded values correspond with the scan thoroughness – FSS being the Full Spectrum System Scanner, FD being First Discovered, and DSS being the Detailed Surface Scanner. The Detailed Surface Scanner is an optional module which must be installed and bound to a firegroup in the right hand panel before it can be used. When you approach a planet of any value (more on that in a second), you can press the fire button for the DSS. Doing so will bring you into the DSS view. What you are trying to do is launch probes at certain points on a planet to map a threshold of 90% of the planet. The line will help you gauge how far the probe will go- the dotted line perpendicular to the main line of the camera denotes the horizon, and the threshold where the main line disappears and reappears is where the exact back of the planet is. You are essentially trying to use gravity to pull in a probe to map the planet. Keep in mind, using the minimum amount of probes denoted on screen will grant you an efficiency bonus, increasing payout.

Second to last, planets have values, with each planet having a specific value. Depending on the quality of the scan, as seen in the previous image, you will earn more money for a more thorough scan. Also, the type of planet influences value. Terraformable planets (which can be discerned via the system map) and earth-like planets, ammonia planets, and water planets are the most valuable. Building onto this, black holes and neutron stars are the most valuable stars, and this actually plays into a little secret.

Lastly, you will need to sell your data to profit. With the third party sites mentioned previously, you must locate a fleet carrier, or starport, and sell your data to Universal Cartographics to gain rank. The most important facet of this is the Deep Space Support Array, which features permanently stationed fleet carriers with Universal Cartographics sprinkled around the galaxy. You may find a map with active locations here. – [edastro.com] Keep in mind that cartographic data is transient, and ship destruction will result in the permanent loss of the data.

Once you start to get the hang of exploration, you may use some more advanced tactics to really take off and get into the furthest reaches of the galaxy. There isn’t much to cover, as exploration becomes open and shut for most after a while, however,advanced pilots may choose to use:

⋅The Neutron Highway

⋅The Self Destruct Superhighway

⋅The Neutron/Black Hole Fields

⋅Exobiology (Covered in more detail later)

To get started, the Neutron Superhighway is a figurative highway that can be accessed via the use of http://spansh.co.uk – [spansh.co.uk]. The rather straightforward site takes your location and jump range and gives you a series of neutron stars to plot to. To use the highway, you need Advanced Field-Maintenance Unit and a Fuel Scoop. When approaching a neutron as part of the ‘highway’, you must slowly enter the eject cones while facing away from the star until you get a message from your Ship UI saying “Frame Shift Drive Supercharged”. When this occurs, your jump range will be multiplied by x4. Enjoy cutting down on travel times drastically with this. (Pro Tip: Use Alt+Tab to navigate between your browser and elite, and consider running elite in fullscreen bordered.)

The Self Destruct Superhighway is a figurative ‘highway’ that denotes the process of teleporting back to the station you last docked at upon death. This is an effective way to cut back on return trip travel times if you do not care about your exploration data.

The Neutron/Black Hole Fields are an occurrence that can be observed around the galactic core, where near limitless amounts of neutron stars and black holes can be found. Scanning these and selling the data to universal cartographics can be an effective way at gaining exploration rank. A prime Neutron Field location can be located at Dryaa Pruae PX-U d2-781, and a prime Black Hole Field location can be located at Shrogaei UU-X e1-5269. Remember to set your star filter to non-sequence stars only.

If you have Elite: Dangerous Odyssey, exobiology is a great way of really mastering your planetary flight skills. Unfortunately, the DLC is quite poor in terms of quality, and requires a decent amount of knowledge and preparation to pull off, and is quite tedious.

(Video) Elite Dangerous : A new player's Exploration guide

Exobiology is the general work that involves flying to atmospheric planets in search for organic vegetation on planetary surfaces. The known facts about finding life are fairly convoluted, however, there are some that can aid you in becoming a seasoned exobiologist.

The main things you need for exobiology are:

⋅Preparation (proper PPE)

⋅Knowledge of atmosphere types, gravity, and atmospheric pressure

⋅Proper landing techniques, including an SRV for efficient ground work

⋅Patience, and a lot of it

To get started, you must bring the right tools for the job. To engage in exobiology, you must buy an Artemis Suit. These suits, manufactured by SupraTech, can be located in Pioneer Supplies, located on all station concourses, and the default cost is 150,000 CR.

Elite Dangerous – Exploration Guide & Walkthrough (3)

Credit: Elite: Dangerous Fandom – [fandom.com]

The Artemis Suit is tailor made to exobiology, and is suited specifically to sustainability in environmentally hostile locations. Like all other suits, it has a gravity rating of up to 2.69G, and a thermal temperature limit of 700K. The suit comes with a generous battery size and backpack jet, all of which is important when navigating planets. Some engineering modifications can come with the suit when first buying, as some suits come in grade 2 or 3. This is uncommon, however, and any engineering is not required, as long as the wearer is vigilant about battery consumption. The majority of battery consumption occurs when the user uses the Genetic Sampler, the tool responsible for scanning exobiological lifeforms.

When exploring, you will inevitably come across a planet with a tenuous atmosphere. Tenuous atmospheres are atmospheres that have a pressure of 0.1 or lesser. Any other atmospheres are considered thick, and are not landable. However, there are many different atmospheric compositions, almost all of which are pure.

Landable Atmospheric compositions include:

⋅Silicate Vapor



⋅Carbon Dioxide





⋅Sulfur Dioxide






⋅Carbon Dioxide-Rich


Credit: Elite: Dangerous Odyssey Reddit – [reddit.com]

All atmospheric compositions directly affect the organics that can be found on each planet. All organic lifeforms come in certain genus and types, where genus is the unique category for a specific lifeform, and types are just color variations of that category. Each genus is worth a different value. It is possible to utilize the codex to read up on some existing information and locations, however, since Odyssey is still fairly new, a lot of information is incomplete.

To scan a plant in Odyssey and make money, you must DSS an atmospheric moon with a gravity of 0.27 or lesser, or an atmospheric planet with a gravity of approximately 1.25G or lesser. If biological signals are discovered, drop into the planet where there is a green highlight. Low populations of biological activity will be blue, but the color is quite hard to discern. When the planetary glide is completed, land, and then either disembark or deploy an SRV. Search until you can visually recognize a plant, and then scan the plant with the Genetic Sampler (Default Bind = 5). Once this is complete, drive or run away from the scanned plant, as an invisible radius will form, preventing the player from scanning another plant of the same type. Once sufficiently far, repeat this process twice more until the complete genus has been logged by the Genetic Sampler, which can be visually determined when the viewmodel pulls the canister from the Sampler and then scrubs the data, with a visual prompt confirming the successful scan.

Once the player is satisfied, they should return to Vista Genomics in a starport concourse and redeem the data for credits. An important thing to note is that exobiology data is transient, just like regular cartographic data, and ANY death, on foot, in-vehicle, or in-ship will result in the loss of data.

In conclusion, exploration is an activity that is not suited to all Elite: Dangerous Players. However, with sufficient preparation, builds, tactics, and achievable goals, it is very easy to accomplish the most impressive exploratory feats. Whether a player desires sightseeing, monetary gain, or just a way to pa*s the time, exploration has a lot to offer to both new and seasoned players. With 400 billion stars, anyone can become great at the profession. With all of the information a*sembled into a coherent manner, I hope that it is easy to a*semble and create a ship capable of sailing the stars.

Also, as an experienced player who has circumnavigated the galaxy and logged over 1.5 million light-years, I felt compelled to write a (mostly) definitive guide on exploration, as I genuinely enjoy everything it has to offer. This is my first Steam Guide, so rate it. I implore you. Also, if I’m missing something, which I probably am, tell me in the comments and I’ll revise this.

(Video) Exploration Guide - Find more Earth-Likes

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