Explorer is one of the three archetypal pilot roles recognized by the Pilots Federation. Explorers have the opportunity to earn income and gain reputation by making pioneering jumps into unexplored systems and gathering data on planets, stars, points of interest and signal sources within star systems using such devices as the Discovery Scanner, Full Spectrum System Scanner, and Detailed Surface Scanner. Many explorers enjoy locating and observing the beautiful views that can be found in deep space. Theoretically, one can leave inhabited space, and never need return.

Exploration Data Edit

Exploration data can be sold at the Universal Cartographics tab of Starport Services. The more thoroughly a system is scanned, the more credits are rewarded, though systems with interesting objects such as Black Holes or Earth-like Worlds will be worth considerably more than systems with Brown Dwarves or Icy Bodies. The first pilot who discovers previously uncharted stars, planets, and moons with the Discovery Scanner and Full Spectrum System Scanner and sells their data is given credit in the form of a "First Discovered By" tag on the System Map; if a pilot is the first to map a planet or moon with the Detailed Surface Scanner, they are given a "First Mapped By" tag.[1]



Detaild Surface Scanner probe launch

Exploration requires the use of five different types of scanners, as listed below. Four are integrated into every ship, and two are integrated into every SRV. One scanner is an optional internal module for ships that must be purchased separately.

  • Discovery Scanner (integrated ship function): Scans an entire star system and instantly discovers all stars. Pilots who scan and turn in the data for previously uncharted stars will be given "First Discovered By" credit for them on the relevant System Maps. Usable in both normal space and Supercruise.
  • Full Spectrum System Scanner (integrated ship function): Scans an entire star system and can be used to discover all planets, moons, asteroid belts, and signal sources. Pilots who scan and turn in the data for previously uncharted planets and moons will be given "First Discovered By" credit for them on the relevant System Maps. Only usable in Supercruise.
  • Detailed Surface Scanner (optional module): Maps a planet, moon, or planetary ring system and reveals any points of interest. Pilots who map and turn in the data for previously unmapped planets and moons will be given "First Mapped By" credit for them on the relevant System Maps. Only usable in Supercruise.
  • Data Link Scanner (integrated ship/SRV function): Scans and analyses technology and structures. Retrieves any available text/audio logs or Encoded Materials.
  • Short Range Composition Scanner (integrated ship/SRV function): Scans and analyses organic and inorganic entities and adds their data to the Codex.

Dashboard Hologram Reference

Aside from these scanners, the key attributes of an exploration ship are range and endurance. A Fuel Scoop is necessary if you are going on long trip out into the galaxy without any space station to refuel. Similarly, it is useful to upgrade your fuel tank to a larger model if possible. An A-rated Power Plant is almost essential for better heat efficiency while fuel scooping, but it is not always optimal to use the highest class. Compromises in power usage allow for fitting lighter power plants while retaining the heat efficiency. Having one or multiple Auto Field-Maintenance Units installed is extremely important when performing extremely long distance deep space exploring, as accidents do happen, and such accidents may, for example, damage the FSD, thrusters or life support modules, compromising your ship. An AFM fixes modules so critical damage is rare. Using the neutron highways also requires an AFM, since overcharging the drive in the stars' jet plumes damages the drive with each jump. One of the main hazards of exploring is close encounters with stars, so one or more Heatsink Launchers may be helpful. It is best to keep only one launcher online and bound to a firegroup to avoid wasting them.

To increase your jump range, upgrade your Frame Shift Drive to one with A rating for best range. If possible, having an Engineer (Felicity Farseer is currently the best choice) optimize the drive will increase range significantly. Don't forget though that you can also increase range by removing unnecessary weight. Since pirates can attack even very far from civilized systems, it is advisable to retain all of your shielding (although this adds weight). Heavy weapons and other combat systems like scanners, hatch breakers, ECMs and interdictors should all be removed from the ship. Cargo Racks can be considered optional, though since version 1.4 it is now possible to encounter salvageable wreckage while out in deep space. Confirmed loot from this type of signal source includes small survey data cache, large survey data cache, and occupied cryopod. While small survey data cache sells for ~4500cr, large survey data cache and occupied cryopods can be quite valuable (up to and exceeding 100,000cr). Also, on very rare occasions, less than 1000 ly from Sol you can find artefacts, so having cargo racks can be profitable. The artefacts might be guarded by NPCs.

If you have access to planetary landing, install a Planetary Vehicle Hangar, and keep your shield generator, as it is near impossible to land on planets without taking hull damage, and the ability to collect materials for synthesis will allow you to replenish your AFMU as many times as you want.

The Guardian Frame Shift Drive Booster is an optional internal module that can be unlocked through a Technology Broker. When powered, the Guardian FSD Booster increases a ship's jump range by a flat number of light-years, ranging from 4.00 ly to 10.50 ly depending on the size of the module. While it takes up a valuable internal slot that could be used for other modules, a higher jump range is always helpful in exploration.

Other modules can also be engineered for maximum exploration comfort. These include:

  • Power Plant: The Low Emissions Power Plant blueprint allows for more comfortable fuel scooping, albeit reducing available power.
  • Thrusters: Clean Drive Tuning reduces the thermal load of thrusters, allowing more heat headroom.
  • Weapons and Utilities: The Lightweight Mount blueprint can remove up to 75% of the mass of almost any weapon and utility module, minimizing their impact on jump range.
  • Armour: The Heavy Duty Armour blueprint increases defences and hull integrity, but Lightweight Armour suffers no mass increase, thus greatly improving survivability during planetary landing.
  • Shields: Reinforcing a lower class shield generator gives better shields at no mass penalty, also increasing survivability upon landing. This is superior over Enhanced, Low Power Shields.
  • Power Distributor: If one wants to use a lower class power distributor with less mass while retaining the ability to boost, the Engine Focused Power Distributor blueprint can allow this.

Visit E:D Shipyard or Coriolis EDCD to get more info on ship customization and plan your loadouts well ahead.

Lastly, remember to turn off the cargo hatch and sensors in the modules panel. This lowers heat generation, which is useful while scooping. Remember to also keep the AFMUs and depleted Heatsink Launchers off when not using them, since this allows a smaller and lighter power plant to be used.

Tips for ExploringEdit


Anaconda in the Eagle Nebula

Pretty Views Edit

Deep space contains a whole multitude of sights and scenes that cannot be found in inhabited space. Nebulae are typically a good starting point when looking for such. Blue stars, including classes B, A, and neutron stars make for some excellent and majestic lighting, while binary star systems are good for unusual and dramatic views. If looking for a particular galactic backdrop, the rim of the galactic core, which contains many blue stars, or the area above or below the galactic plane make for some spectacular views. Make sure to check system orrery maps for planetoids that may have a good view of other bodies. For example, this might be a moon that orbits a gas giant off of the gas giant's orbital plane, and at a close distance.

Valuable Bodies Edit

Pay close attention to your destination systems in the Galaxy Map. If looking for valuable planetoids, then the most ideal systems are of those with star classes F, G and K - that is to say, the most Sol-like systems, with potential Earth-likes. Other star class systems can contain Earth-likes, but are less likely to do so. Neutron star systems are a suprisingly good candidate for containing Earth-likes. Higher class star systems, such as O and B do not often contain terrestrial bodies due to their young age and immense heat, though they can contain stellar nurseries. Lower class star systems, such as M, L, T, Y tend to contain many ice bodies, due to their low heat. Systems with multiple stars are unlikely to contain terraformables or Earth-likes, due to unusual orbits and high temperatures. Black holes and neutron stars, however, do net quite the amount of credits, especially if you are the first to discover them. Herbig and T Tauri-type stars almost never have anything more than occasional gas planets.

Analysis Mode Edit


Full Spectrum System Scanner

Elite Dangerous: Beyond Chapter Four adds the Analysis Mode with the improved Exploration Discovery Scanner, Full Spectrum System Scanner and Detailed Surface Scanner. This is a brand new way for all Commanders to explore the Milky Way galaxy. After the initial scan of a star system, you will then be able to tune your scanners to find stellar bodies and other phenomena. Unidentified Signal Sources and conflict zones will also appear as dotted lines within this mode, allowing you to easily track down interesting or important things within the system. Not only is this new system a more realistic, satisfying and engaging exploration experience, but now you will be able to make more informed decisions on where to look next, and you will be more rewarded for your time spent exploring. Commanders will now have probes at their disposal to map the planetary surfaces, and planetary rings, in detail, to locate points of interest and leave your mark on the galaxy in a different way.[2]

Fuel Scooping Edit


A star and Neutron Star with a Sidewinder

Bear in mind how well a destination star will fare with your Fuel Scoop. Cooler stars are easier to scoop fuel from without overheating, while classes F and above can be dangerously hot. Fuel scooping will only work with main sequence stars; these are stars with the stellar types O, B, A, F, G, K and M. Astronomers often use the mnemonic "Oh Be A Fine Girl/Guy, Kiss Me" to remember the main sequence stellar classes in order of temperature. Some commanders use the phrase "KGB-FOAM".[3]

In many systems (particularly smaller, cooler ones) it is possible to combine scanning and fuel-scooping. Simply submerge yourself in the stellar gases and start to scoop, allowing a healthy margin of safety (e.g. keeping yourself at ~60% heat). Then you can scan nearby objects up to ~50 while your tanks are refilling. Scanning works uninterrupted even through stars, so remaining stationary while scooping is completely viable.

Terraformable Planets Edit


Star system view

Identifying terraformable planets, which are the most valuable, is important. You can look at the system map as soon as you have fired your Discovery Scanner upon entering a system, which will show images of all stars and planets in the system. All planets have a distinctive sound that plays while hovering over them. This can help you identify good prospects. Potential candidates are brown or blue with rich surface features, even clouds, while featureless white disks are typically ice worlds of little value.

Earth-likes and water worlds are quite obvious on the system map, especially if listening to the sound they make. Terraformables, however, do not differ from normal planets at first glance, so they need to be scanned. The mass of the planets and distance from the star are the next key factors. The size of Mars is approximately the low boundary of terraformability, which is half the radius of Earth and tenth its mass. Next, pay attention to the size of the star and the distance of candidate planets and try to work out whether they are in the habitable zone of the star. This is approximately 1AU for stars of 1 solar mass, and can be determined for other stars using the inverse-square law. For example, for a star of 2 solar masses, it's the square root of 2, or ~1.4AU. Many terraformable metal planets may seem worthless at first glance, but if their temperature is right, they are potential candidates.

Other factors are often negligible: even an airless planet can be a candidate. Temperatures between 250K and 300K are most ideal, however there are extremes. Water worlds, for example, which are somewhat valuable themselves even if not terraformable, can be ridiculously hot at over 600K. This is often compensated by their atmospheric pressure, which can reach over 1000 atm. Gas planets have all similar value, regardless of whether they have life or not.

Asteroid Bases Edit


Hind Mine asteroid base

Dozens of Asteroid Bases are located in deep space. They provide resupply and repair services. So you can get your ship hull repaired there without needing to travel back to the bubble.

Non-Sequence Objects Edit

It is possible to discover non-sequence objects by turning off all star types in the galaxy map. Look for shadowy dots on the galaxy map, zoom to them and turn on the star types to set a course. Usually you'll find a black hole in the system. Black holes also stand out in Realistic galaxy map mode.

Audio Logs Edit

Audio logs are recordings of events. When you discover an audio log the lore will be added to the Codex. You can read or listen to it anytime such as while on a voyage.

Tourist Beacons Edit


A Tourist Beacon and Asp Explorer

There are hundreds of tourist beacons in the galaxy. They can be found in space and on the surface of planets or moons.

For passenger missions you can scan tourist beacons to learn about the lore and earn exploration rewards.

INRA Bases Edit

By visiting INRA Bases you can listen to audio logs and discover what happened.

Generation Ships Edit

All Generation Ships feature audio logs that can be downloaded from Ship Log Uplinks.

Rewards for exploringEdit

The value of exploration data depends on several factors:

  • Quality of the data. Some small value (~500CR) simply for locating the object with a Discovery Scanner, sometimes called "honking" because of the sound the scanner makes. The quality of the Discovery Scanner does not impact the value of objects discovered in this way, but merely the max distance at which bodies can be revealed. However, much more value is obtained by moving to, and probing, a celestial body. This involves moving to a close range, which can be from <1Ls to several dozens of Ls, depending on the radius of the celestial body. Probes are then fired at the body's surface. A set radius around the impact point of the probe is mapped. Once the body is 90% mapped, the remaining surface is 'filled in'. An efficiency bonus is given for firing no more than a certain number of probes, which again varies depending on celestial body radius. It is worth noting that asteroid clusters yield no reward. This includes the exclusion of any 'First Discovered by' and 'First Mapped by' tag, aside from a firendly congratulations for first discovery when selling the data. As such, when an asteroid cluster is scanned using the FSS, all asteroid clusters belonging to the same star (though not system) are automatically discovered.
  • Nature of the celestial object. The most valuable planets are earthlike worlds (ELWs), water worlds (WWs), and ammonia worlds (AWs). The most valuable stars are black holes (BH) and neutron stars (NS). The least valuable planets are rocky, icy, and rocky icy bodies, which are sometimes referred to as a whole as "rice".
  • Terraformability. Planets located within the circumstellar habitable zone ("Goldilocks zone") around their parent star are candidates for terraforming and gain a value multiplier. Only water worlds (~2x), high metal content (~6x), and rocky worlds (~3x) can be candidates for terraforming.
  • Mass of the celestial object. Aside from body class and terraformability, it is the only property of the body that matters for valuation. More massive objects are always worth more than less massive objects within that particular body class, ignoring terraformability. E.g., a 2.00 Earth-mass high metal content body will always be worth more than a 1.00 Earth-mass high metal content body, though it will still be worth less than a 1.00 Earth-mass Earth-like world.
  • First sale bonus. A further 50% bonus is applied if you are the first commander to scan the celestial object with a Detailed Surface Scanner. Additionally, the body will gain a "First Mapped by" tag and your commander name will be visible to all players when the body is selected or hovered over in the system map. Note: the body's name will still show as "Unknown" to any player who has not scanned it personally.

Metallic Crystals and a Type-9

There are many factors which have no effect whatsoever on the value of a scanned body's exploration data:

  • Distance from sale point. Note you can't sell data at stations within 20 ly from its source.
  • Distinct visual features. Coloration, craters, canyons, mountain ranges, etc.
  • Material content. No bonuses are given for the presence or quantity of specific materials.
  • Landability. Both landable and non-landable bodies have the same value.
  • Orbital properties. Distance from arrival point, rotational period, semi-major axis, eccentricity, inclination, arg of periapsis, or orbital period.
  • Stellar properties. Stellar mass, absolute magnitude, age, radius, rotation and surface temperature.
  • Planetary properties. Radius, rotation, surface temperature, atmosphere, volcanism, and surface pressure.

Data Values Edit

The table below shows the average payouts for data from all astronomical bodies as of Elite Dangerous: Beyond Chapter Four (3.3).[4]

Planet Type Terraformable? Median mass FSS FSS+FD FSS+DSS FSS+FD+DSS
Ammonia World 0.43914 143463 373004 597762 1724965
Earth-like World 0.498039 270290 702753 1126206 3249900
Water World 0.780638 99747 259343 415613 1199337
Water World Yes 0.453011 268616 698400 1119231 3229773
High Metal Content Planet 0.344919 14070 36581 58624 169171
High Metal Content Planet Yes 0.466929 163948 426264 683116 1971272
Icy Body 0.01854 500 1300 1569 4527
Metal Rich Body 0.323933 31632 82244 131802 380341
Rocky Body 0.003359 500 1300 1476 4260
Rocky Body Yes 0.142312 129504 336711 539601 1557130
Rocky Ice Body 0.180686 500 1300 1752 5057
Class I Gas Giant 69.551636 3845 9997 16021 46233
Class II Gas Giant 476.240875 28405 73853 118354 341536
Class III Gas Giant 1148.921509 995 2587 4145 11963
Class IV Gas Giant 2615.635376 1119 2910 4663 13457
Class V Gas Giant 925.575806 966 2510 4023 11609
Gas Giant with Ammonia-based Life 170.455071 774 2014 3227 9312
Gas Giant with Water-based Life 477.001832 883 2295 3679 10616
Helium-Rich Gas Giant 550.141846 900 2339 3749 10818
Water Giant 47.163769 667 1734 2779 8019
  • FSS = FSS but don't get first discoverer.
  • FSS + FD = FSS, and get first discoverer tag.
  • FSS + DSS = body scanned and mapped with efficiency bonus - but neither first discoverer nor first mapped
  • FSS + FS + DSS = body scanned, mapped with efficiency, and both first discovered and first mapped.


Elite Exploration Animation

Rank Promotion animation

The player may gain exploration ranks with The Pilots Federation based upon the amount of money made by selling cartographic data acquired in exploration to Universal Cartographics.[nb 1][nb 2] Other applicable activities include driving an SRV (the further away from Sol this is done, the faster progression is), collecting materials on the surface of a planet or moon (with a significant bonus awarded upon discovering a new material),[5] and by successfully completing VIP passenger transportation missions.

The table below lists the estimated amount of profit required to advance to higher exploration ranks. Exact numbers are not available in-game, and depending on which activities are used to advance, the amount of profit may differ from player to player.

Rank Profit Required
Aimless 0
Mostly Aimless 40,000
Scout 270,000
Surveyor 1,140,000
Trailblazer >4,000,000
Pathfinder 10,000,000
Ranger 35,000,000
Pioneer 116,000,000
Elite >318,000,000



Lagrange Cloud and an Asp Explorer

While any ship can potentially be outfitted for exploration provided it has enough space for the requisite equipment, arguably the most important determinant for a ship's suitability for exploration aside from the modules it can fit is jump range. Any serious expedition beyond the human bubble will cover thousands or tens of thousands of light years, and longer jump ranges not only cut down travel times, but allow access to the greatest possible number of star systems.

For instance, traveling to Beagle Point and back is regarded as a major milestone that dedicated explorers should eventually strive for, but any ship restricted to a jump range of less than 34 ly will be unable to reach the system because it is located in an area where stars are considerably fewer and farther apart. Other stars in the galaxy can be even farther apart, and many are completely unreachable in the current state of the game even with an optimally-outfit ship.

Recommended exploration ships include:

Ship Max Jump Range
as of 3.3 (Un-Engineered)
Cost Pros Cons
Anaconda 41.45 ly 146,969,450 CR - The most module slots of all recommended ships.
- Can fit a Class 7 Fuel Scoop.
- Best jump range with engineered modules.
- The most popular choice among established players for exploration.
- Very expensive both to purchase and outfit.
- Not very maneuverable.
- As a large-pad ship, cannot land at outpost stations.
- Needs engineered lightweight sensors and lightweight life support to achieve its highest possible jump range.
- View from cockpit is sub-optimal.
Asp Explorer 38.19 ly 6,661,153 CR - Relatively cheap.
- Adequate module slots.
- Maneuverable.
- Can fit a Class 6 Fuel Scoop.
- As a medium-pad ship, can land at all station types.
- Excellent view from cockpit.
- The second most popular choice among established players for exploration.
- Does not have the longest jump range of all ships.
- Module slots can be somewhat constricting, as only 2 of 7 total slots are larger than Class 3.
Diamondback Explorer 41.61 ly 1,894,760 CR - Cheaper than the Asp Explorer.
- Best jump range without engineered modules.
- Maneuverable.
- Runs cool (superior heat management).
- As a small-pad ship, can land at all station types.
- Cannot fit a Fuel Scoop larger than Class 4.
- Constricting module slots.
Dolphin 35.10 ly 1,337,330 CR - Cheaper than the Asp Explorer and Diamondback Explorer.
- Can fit a Class 5 Fuel Scoop.
- As a small-pad ship, can land at all station types.
- Only 3 Utility slots.
- Requires owning Horizons in order to purchase.
Hauler 37.29 ly 52,720 CR - The cheapest recommended option.
- As a small-pad ship, can land at all station types.
- Very constricting module slots.
- Only 2 Utility slots.
- Tiny fuel tank negates the need for a large fuel scoop, but the trade-off is more frequent stops for refueling.
Krait Phantom 34.79 ly 37,472,254 CR - Better module slots than the Asp Explorer.
- Can fit a Class 6 Fuel Scoop.
- As a medium-pad ship, can land at all station types.
- Expensive.
- Less maneuverable than the Asp Explorer.
- Requires owning Horizons in order to purchase.
Orca 35.80 ly 48,539,887 CR - Much cheaper than the Anaconda.
- Adequate module slots.
- Can fit a Class 6 Fuel Scoop.
- Expensive.
- Requires engineering to become decently maneuverable.
- As a large-pad ship, cannot land at outpost stations.

Most other ships are markedly inferior for exploration purposes compared to those listed above, but some might be suitable alternatives either in the short-term when better ships are unaffordable, or for a change of pace. These alternatives are listed below, from greatest un-Engineered maximum jump range to lowest:

Remember that the maximum ranges listed here don't include any modules, so outfitting the ship for exploration usually shaves off 4-6 ly from jump range. Far enough from civilized space, NPCs are an extreme rarity and eager explorers can bin their weapons and other systems, such as shields, to get more jump range. You may also want to install systems of lesser class than your ship allows to save on weight. D-rating systems are the lightest in weight, adding to jump range.

The Engineers update introduced many ways to modify and optimize ships for exploration. Due to this, many ships previously incapable of large jumps are now very viable choices. The Python and Krait MkII, for example, can both achieve ranges in excess of 40 ly with a Grade 5 FSD enhancement and proper outfitting, making them comfortable exploration ships with better module slots than the Asp Explorer. Of course, normal exploration ships can be pushed to even greater ranges with Engineering (~57 ly for the Asp Explorer, ~62 ly for the Diamondback Explorer, and ~68 for the Anaconda).

Scarab SRV Edit


SRV Scarab and anemones on a planet

The Scarab is an SRV that can be used for planetary surface exploration. It's equipped with booster jets to better traverse mountains, canyons and valleys. Night Vision makes dark terrain visible.The plasma repeater turret is useful for mining minerals.

The Scarab has a 1C sensor that can detect ships out to around 1-3 kilometers, and ground threats out to around 600m. It's also equipped with a Data Link Scanner for interacting with scannable items, and the Wave Scanner module; a unidirectional, long-range, forward facing scanner that detects a variety of vehicles and points of interest.

Galactic Records Edit

The fansite Universal Cartographics has a records archive with details of record breaking stellar objects found by explorers in the galaxy of Elite: Dangerous. There are over 650 record categories posted by around 100 explorers. A Galactic Book of Records is available here.

Michael Brooks said on the morning of March 17, 2016 approximately 30,851,973 systems were explored by people. That's 0.0077% of the Milky Way galaxy.[6]

As of March 2, 2018 Commanders have discovered 112,863,791 individual star systems, which is only 0.028% of the systems in the galaxy.[7] Over 20,262,978,541 light-years have been hyperspaced since Elite Dangerous was released.[8]

Records Edit

Galactic Traffic Report Edit


Galactic Traffic Report April 3303

EDSM made traffic report videos which show ship movement and exploration in the galaxy. It's based on data taken from EDSM flight logs. ED-Board made an Elite: Dangerous Heatmap timelapse generated from the database (systems data submitted by E:D players) to show progress of the Milky Way exploration.


  1. Data is lost if the player's ship is destroyed.
  2. Data transfers when the player switches to a different ship.

Guides Edit



See Also Edit


  1. Newsletter #60
  2. Beyond - Chapter Four - Beta Announcement
  4. Frontier Forums: Exploration value formulae
  5. Dev Update (03/12/2015)
  6. starts at 17 mins
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