If you’re not into, or don’t have the equipment to go bounty hunting, exploring in Elite Dangerous can be a lucrative way to make money. Here are some tips for Commanders wanting to have a go.
You will need a detail scanner which costs CR250,000. You can explore with just the basic scanner, but it’s much harder. Assign the scanner to your secondary fire group. It you want to explore deeper space, then you’ll need a fuel scoop, too. You can get by without a scoop to start with but it means you need to be careful not to stray too far from an inhabited system. It’s a good idea to keep track of the last inhabited system you were at, if you start to run low on fuel, head back.
Pick a system where there’s no navigation information available, look for the red system information icon in the galaxy map. Systems with an actual name rather than a designation are likely inhabited.
As you jump into the system, whilst still in witchspace, set the throttle to zero. You’re going to arrive very close to the local primary and don’t want to get too hot. As soon as you exit, press and hold secondary fire to charge the scanner, it takes a few seconds before firing. The first object you’ll immediately pick up is the star, point the ship at it and hit your “target ahead” key. You’ll see your ship start scanning it, this takes a little while. If your detail scanner picks up any other nearby bodies, you’ll get an alert telling you.
Target each unexplored object in turn, working from closest to furthest away. Anything within 5ls you can scan just by rotating your ship and pointing at it, however at some point you’ll need to start moving around the system.
Be careful near the star, it’s easy to overheat your ship. If an object is on the other side of the star just point your ship away from the star to get some altitude and, when the heat levels decrease, gradually turn to get the target in your sights.
Learning to jockey the FSD’s autothrottle is essential. If you keep overshooting objects then you’ll just waste time. Once the object is in your sights, push the throttle forward until the power line turns blue and leave it there. Your ship will now automatically accelerate and decelerate for you. You’ll need to get each object within range to scan, the distance depends on the mass of the object. Stars can be scanned from a long way out, gas giants from about 100ls, planets from around 20ls or 10ls and rock belts 5ls.
Not all systems contain planets, or they might be out of the range of your detail scanner. You can try looking round the sky for objects moving relative to the background, I don’t bother and just move on the the next system.
Data you gather can be sold at any station provided you’ve travelled at least 20LY from where you got it. The least you’ll get is a few hundred credits, however even a single star explored will usually net you around CR1200. More interesting systems, with high metal content planets, will net you much more. The highest I’ve seen to date is CR53000. There seems no point in hoarding the data, the price doesn’t change regardless of distance.
Every so often, seems to be about 1 in 20, you’ll get an interdiction attempt. It’s up to you whether you fight or flee but if you lose your ship, you will also lose any navigation data you have not sold. If you get something juicy, it’s probably worth making a deliberate trip to an inhabited system to cash it in.
As you travel around a solar system, you’ll see blips on your scope marked Unidentified Signal Source. If you investigate these then you may be lucky and it’s free cargo (albeit it will be marked stolen), or it may be dumped toxic waste, or it may be a trap. The traps are not usually hard to evade if you don’t feel like a fight. Stolen cargo can be offloaded at the black market, you might have to carry it around for a while before you find one. I usually limit myself to investigating one USS per system, usually once I’m done with exploring. If it turns out to be a trap then I just jump to the next system.