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Tips for beginners: Shipyard and Outfitting


Building a ship is complicated and expensive, so it's helpful to know what all the modules of a ship are for and what is involved in assembling them into the ship you want.

All players are created equal, but depending on how much you play Elite and how fast you gain experience on the almost-vertical learning curve, very few Commanders stay that way.

Surprisingly the Sidewinder is a highly adaptable multi-role ship, with a very respectable 24Ly light range when upgraded, but most players want to move on from the “start ship” as soon as they can.

So what ship will you choose and how will you equip it? That depends on budget entirely. However, the principle budget requirements are the same; as a rule, whatever the basic hull of a ship costs, the cash needed to outfit the ship will at least equal that cost again. You will likely need to spend 300K CR outfitting a 300K CR Cobra once you've bought it and have enough cash left over for rebuy of the resulting build.

An “A Rated” Cobra can cost over 8M CR, so don’t get carried away on your first build!

One other, final consideration, is the size of your ship. Outposts only have Small and Medium landing pads, so the moment you upgrade to a Large pad ship, you rule out visiting outpost locations. You'll never dock your Type-7 or Anaconda at Hutton Orbital!

Where to shop

Not all stations sell ships or parts. Stock of both varies around the galaxy. Most outposts won’t even have a shipyard. You need to find a system where you can buy the ship you want AND have a decent enough outfitting stock, that you can equip you ship well.

Why does that matter? Early on in the game I went to a system and bought a Viper Mk III and sold my Sidewinder. I then found the station outfitting only sold E rated Frame Shift Drives (same as I had), so there I was, in a system 9Lyr from the next system in a ship with 7.9Lyr jump range and no option (even with the credits) to buy a better FSD. Don’t get stranded like I did.

Find a suitable system in the galaxy map. In the galaxy map, select the View TAB, pick Economy view; select Refinery and High Tech, and opt to filter by population, raising the minimum to past the half-way point. A high tech, high population system will ensure the stations will be well stocked.

You can cheat by looking on www.eddb.io and searching for stations that stock the ship you desire. Also check the availability of FSD drives that are A-D rated, for the reason I already stated – you don’t want to get marooned in your new ship.

CMDR Echologi on Reddit reminded me that all stations in the control of Li Yong-Rui offer a 15% discount on Ships and Modules. That can save a ton of cash! Also, anyone who has reached Elite rank can visit Jameson Memorial station in Shinrarta Dezhra which always has every ship and module and a 10% discount on everything.

Head to the system and station of your choice to get started.

Sell or store?

You’ve got a sack of cash and you’re sitting in the showroom, but do you part-exchange the old bucket of bolts, or keep it and opt for fleet expansion? That’s down to personal preference and budget. If you’ve got the money, why the hell not? But it is very easy to become a ship hoarder. Take it from someone that owned every ship in the game until recently, you can just end up keeping ships for the sake of it. Bragging rights aside, do you need it? Will you use it? Have you got the money? If the answer is no to any of those questions, sell.

Remember: When you sell modules, you get back what you paid. BUT when you sell the ship, you lose 10%, so downgrade every core module to E rated and sell all hardpoints, utility modules and optional internals before you sell the ships hull. That will reduce your losses. Also consider storing any hard-to-get modules or weapons, if they can be fitted to your new vessel.

Into the Shipyard you go

You’ve made your choice, spent your credits and purchased a new ship hull. What next? Well, all ships come in a (just) flyable state, but they are poorly equipped with only core internal modules and no optional equipment. The first stop you must make is station outfitting.

Class and efficiency

No, I'm not talking about butlers! All modules in Elite: Dangerous are rated to a class number (size) and (heat efficiency) letter.

Class 1 is the smallest, to Class 8 the largest. E rated is worst heat efficiency and A rated is the best. With the letter rating for internal modules D rated is always lightweight, being the lowest weight in class and B rated is always armoured, making it the heaviest and toughest in each class.

For a trade-ship or exploration ship, you'll want D rated internals for low weight giving the best possible jump range. However, a combat build would want the best means of heat dispersal and maximum power distribution, so you'd A rate all the internals on your combat ship.

Do not make the mistake of buying a module that is a class below the one required by the ship. What do I mean? If your Cobra needs a Class 4 Power Plant, while a Class 2 or 3 plant can be fitted and will be a lot cheaper and lighter and maybe even A rated, it is below specification for your ship. It would suck if, on take-off your ship lacks the power for more than life-support and you float over the pad until the station kills you for loitering. Using lower-classed modules can be done and can add advantages for weight and cost, but you need to have a good understanding of power management and the ship’s limitations before you try this.


Turret, Gimbal or fixed? While weapon mounts are (to a degree) down to preference, the optimum mount to use depends on the agility of the ship, the experience of the commander and the role of the ship.

Fixed weapons offer the highest damage per second (DPS) and lowest power consumption, but you need dead-on aim to hit your target.

 Gimbal mount weapons consume more power and have a lower DPS, they offer the option of target tracking (auto-aim) within a defined area of the pilot view. While they may not hit as hard, you are more likely to hit the target.

 Turret mount weapons have a similar or slightly higher power consumption than gimbal, but have full target tracking and automatic fire (in two modes – target-only & fire-at-will). Once you fire at a target, the turret weapon will continue to fire until the target is out of range or killed. What’s more, the turret can fire 360 degrees around it’s hardpoint, so can shoot at targets out of the pilot’s view.

Fixed weapons produce a line of fire, Gimbal weapons produce a cone of fire and Turret weapons produce a dome of fire. Fixed are always the cheapest and Turrets the most expensive. Not all weapons are available in Turret or Gimbal mounts.

For different weapon types, read my detailed article “Guns and ammo”.

Utility mounts

The ship’s utility mounts are used to fit scanners and counter-measures.

Chaff and Electronic Counter Measures are explained in detail in the “Guns and Ammo” article referenced above.

Heat Sink Launcher

In space, keeping cool is problem. Because your ship is in a vacuum, you cannot use conduction or convection to disperse heat, so you can only radiate heat (hence the giant heat vents on all ships).
The heat sink is a utility mount item that drains the ship’s hot coolant into a metal disc shaped like a hockey puck and fires it into space, replacing the old hot coolant with new cold liquid. Quite literally throwing the ship’s heat away into space.
While the Heat Sink is a form of counter measure for heat seeking missiles, it is also an essential tool for keeping the ship cool in extreme circumstances.

Explorers use them for when their ship drops out of hyperspace too close to very hot large star (or twin stars) and the ship is so hot, a frame shift jump would destroy the ship. By using a heat sink while the FSD charges, the temperature is kept below dangerous levels.

Combat pilots use them (not just as countermeasure) but also to reduce heat in combat, especially when utilising Shield Cells which produce a great deal of heat when operated.


The Kill Warrant Scanner is used in bounty hunting and searches the target “wanted” ship’s registry in galactic police database and adds any bounty vouchers from outside the current system onto the amount already shown. This can increase the bounty rewards by as much as double.

The Cargo Scanner is used by pirates to determine what cargo a ship is carrying. No point getting into a fight over bio-waste!

The Frame Shift Wake Scanner is a means to collect data from low and high wakes left behind when a ship jumps to super-cruise or hyper-space respectively. Bounty hunters use them to track which system a target ship has gone when they jump to hyper-space, putting the destination in their navigation computer, allowing the bounty hunter to give chase into the next star system.

Core internals

All ships have the same core systems. They just vary in size and cost. The big ones cost a lot! A Class 1A Shield Generator costs 79,268 CR, while a Class 8A costs 146,327,841 CR.


The ship’s bulkheads make up the primary armour that protects the ship’s systems (and you) from damage when the shields are down. The basic armour is designated Lightweight Alloy and is just a standard hull. Reinforced Alloy in much heavier and offers better protection from explosive and kinetic damage (bombs & bullets). Military Grade Composite is almost twice as heavy as Reinforced and increased hull integrity.

Finally, there are two types of specialist bulkhead. Mirrored Surface Composite and Reactive Surface Composite. These two options trade off thermal resistance for kinetic protection (and vice versa) to offer specific protection. In simple terms Mirrored is laser resistant and Reactive is bullet resistant.

Reactor Bay

The power plant is the heart of the ship. Without power, you die. When selecting your power plant, it is advisable to pick this module before anything else. Then you can see, as you add other modules and (critically) weapons, if your power plant can supply the Mega Watts (MW) you require.

Thruster Mounting

Your thrusters don’t just decide how fast your ship travels in normal space, but also its agility. The speed of roll, pitch and yaw will improve (or worsen) depending on the thrusters you’ve equipped.

Always be careful to make sure your thrusters capable of lifting the weight of your ship, laden and unladen, especially if using lower class modules or you’ll buy one ton of cargo and be unable to take off!

FSD Housing

By use of the Frame Shift Drive, you ship can enter super-cruise allowing faster-than-light space travel. It can also open a hyperspace window into a realm called witch-space, which permits your ship to make interstellar journeys of tens of light years in as many seconds. The witch-space realm was thought to be the home of the Thargoids, at least only they have been known to travel in witch-space and hyperdict ships (arrest a frameshift jump).

The size of the Frame Shift Drive and its efficiency rating determine your ship’s jump range and how hot your ship gets when charging for a jump. Jump range is affected by ship weight. Cargo, extra bulkheads; even a full tank of fuel will lower the distance your ship jumps.

Overloading your Frame Shift Drive with a heavy ship will turn your craft into a shuttle. You won’t jump anywhere!

Also, the further you jump in a single go, the more fuel you use. You can travel many times further using short “economic” jumps than in long jumps using the same fuel.

Which FSD should you buy? The best one you can afford. Just make sure your power plant is up to the task.

Environment Control

Life support is quite important. It’s the device than keeps you alive. It also has an “emergency mode” when your canopy is blown out. When that happens, the better rated your Life Support, the longer the oxygen will keep flowing. A basic E rated Life Support system gives 5 minutes oxygen while the A rated module gives 25 minutes.

If you are taking a ship into combat (especially a Vulture, which has a fragile canopy) the A rated Life Support would be recommended.

Power Coupling

The Power Distributor is the buffer (and often the bottleneck) between your power plant and the ships systems, weapons and thrusters. The higher rated your distributor, the larger the power capacitance of the three power systems and the faster they recharge.

I will explain about power balance and module priority later on, but the key feature of any power supply is that the power stays on when you need it to be there and the juice is coming fast enough for your purposes, so if that is combat, you need A rated power plants.

Sensor Suite

Ships sensors are used for scanning whatever object you target. Apart from stars and planets which can be scanned from a larger distance due to their size, most objects in space must be within a set distance and in front of the ships target reticule in order to scan the. For an A rated sensor the scan range is 6.94km, while the E rated module only starts working at 4.64km – unless they’ve been engineered.

For traders, explorers and miners, you probably want the D rated sensors as weight will be the biggest consideration. For combat ships, the A rated might be favourable, as if “you see them before they see you” then you’ve got an advantage. However, high rated modules use more power, which makes it a choice between seeing them sooner, or shooting them for longer.

Fuel Store

The fuel tank holds the hydrogen fuel that runs your power plant and fuels the Frame Shift Drive. Extra tanks can be added to the optional internals, but initially the size of your core fuel tank will dictate how many jumps your ship can make between stations. At least until you equip a Fuel Scoop.

Optional internals

These modules will vary depending on the size of your ship and your intended career path in the game.

Types of optional internal module

Module Name Description

Auto-field maintenance unit

This module will carry out repairs on your ship on systems not in use, including your canopy. The one exception is your power plant, as you cannot turn that off to repair it without dying.

Cargo racks

These hold cargo canisters. Cargo space is also used to hold limpet drones for your limpet controllers.

FSD Interdictor

The Frame Shift Drive Interdictor is a type of jamming device that when used on another target ship in super-cruise will cause their drive to fail and the ship to drop back to normal space where they are then vulnerable to attack.

Fuel tanks

Each ship comes with a basic fuel tank, but additional tanks can be added to increase the overall range of the ship between refuelling stops.

Fuel Scoop

A Fuel Scoop is a very useful module that allows your ship to collect hydrogen fuel from the corona of some stars if you fly close enough. The bigger the scoop, the faster it collects fuel.

Fighter Hangar

Fighter Hangars hold one or two one-man deployable ships. These can be flown by you while the helm is on autopilot, or can be flow by crew you employ, or by other CMDRs in multicrew.

Planetary Vehicle Hangar

This module is your Surface Reconnaissance Vehicle bay and is needed if you want to leave your ship on planet surfaces.

Collector limpet controller

Something which saves a lot of tedious manual cargo-scooping. The controller dispatches drones, called limpets, which fly out of your ship, collect mined ore, or cargo canisters and return them to your cargo scoop.
Handy tip: if you have a ship large enough, you can have multiple controllers.

Fuel transfer limpet controller

Rather than collect something, this controller will dispatch a limpet with 1T of fuel from your own ship and deliver it to a target ship. This is used to rescue ships in distress and other CMDRs who have run out of fuel. The tool of choice for a Fuel Rat!

Hatch breaker limpet controller

If you destroy a ship, you may (if very lucky) find some cargo in the remains, but if you have a hatch breaker limpet controller, you can send drones at the target ship to pop open their cargo hold – at which point, the bounty will come falling out.

Prospector limpet controller

You can, when mining shoot anything and the rock will produce ore or not. And the ore produced could be anything (within the chemical ranges of that solar system).
However, a prospecting limpet controller will tell you what is in a rock, how much is there, how much you’ve mined already AND increase the yield.
If you are mining and have the space, this is an essential tool.

Economy class cabins

Like the Japanese pod hotels, these are functional but far from salubrious accommodations when being transported. But it does pack ‘em in!

Business class cabins

These cabins are how the corporate types like to travel. While you’ll take fewer bodies, they pay a lot better.

First class cabins

First class cabins are the top-end of cabins that can be fitted to standard ships. First class passengers can pay a lot, but also demand a great deal.

Luxury class cabins

Luxury class cabins can only be fitted to purpose-made passenger vessels, which currently are the Dolphin, Orca and Beluga.

Luxury class passengers offer the highest rewards, but frequently demand changes of destination and side-trips. You can lose cash if they get upset.


The refinery is the module that grinds ore and stores minerals in bins (or hoppers). When each bin hits 100% of a particular metal or mineral, it is transferred to the cargo racks as 1T of cargo.
If your bins are all used, but not 100% full, refining can stop. More bins are better, but the size of the refinery is dictated by the module Class sizes available on your ship.

Shield generator

Don’t leave dock without one. Yes, you can fly without shields, but what is that cargo rack going to be worth when you’re dead?
Shields are mass-rated, so you can fly lower class shields that the maximum your ship will take (e.g. A Cobra could use 3D shields for trade or exploration, but would need 4A shields for combat).

Bi-weave shield generator

Bi-weave shields are only available in a C rated module. This means they are never as strong as standard shields. However, the bi-weave module charges faster, so a damaged shield will return to three rings and an collapsed shield will restore 1.5x faster with this type of shield.

Prismatic shield generator

These are only available to rank 3 power player members of Aisling Duval’s faction after four weeks. Prismatic shields are 20% stronger than standard, but draw a lot more power and weigh more. They are like a shield with an A rated booster built-in.

Shield cell bank

Shield cells are like a battery for quick-charging your shields. If you have every discharged a battery quickly, you’ll know it makes a lot of heat, and shield cells are just the same. In simple terms, if shields are a balloon, shield cells are small tanks of helium.

Hull reinforcement package

These modules provide bulkhead reinforcement, adding to the armour and total integrity of your ship.

Module reinforcement package

Module reinforcement packages add to the total integrity of your ships modules, making them resistant to more damage.

Docking computer

Apart from playing “The Blue Danube” the docking computer will fly your ship into a station automatically from the moment you request landing permission. The downside is it takes up a module slot and can make mistakes. Use it if you must, but don’t rely on it.

Advanced discovery scanner

When you arrive in a new system, this scanner (when mapped to a fire group) will scan the entire system.

Intermediate discovery scanner

The intermediate scanner works in the same way, but is limited to a range of 1,000Ls from the ship. Anything further out, will not be scanned.

Basic discovery scanner

The basic scanner is limited to a range of just 500Ls from the ship. Anything further out, will not be scanned.

Detailed surface scanner

For real earnings from exploration you need this planetary surface scanner. This collects the really valuable cartographic data.


Career specific choices

Many of the modules available at stations are mysterious items you never use. Why? Because they are for a specific purpose that is not required in your chosen line of work. A trader won’t ever need a refinery. No self-respecting honest pilot would be seen dead carrying a manifest scanner – the pirate’s tool of choice. Explorers have little use for Frame Shift Interdictors.

Here is the shopping list for each career path when ship building.


Mining is all about patience and free money. After all, you’re fishing for gold and what you pick up for nothing, when sold is pure profit.

You will want: Mining Laser(s), Cargo rack(s), Refinery, Collector Limpet Controller(s), Limpets and optionally a Prospecting Limpet Controller.

Bounty hunting

Being a bounty hunter is combat on the right side of the law. Profitable and exciting! See the galaxy and shoot people.

You will want: Mixed weapons, Kill Warrant Scanner, Frame Shift Wake Scanner, Frame Shift Interdictor, Shield Cell Bank(s), Heat Sink(s) and A Rated core internals.


Yar, ‘tis a pirate’s life for you! Living in lawless systems and taking bounty from traders who cross ye path.

You will want: Mixed weapons, Manifest Scanner, Frame Shift Interdictor, Cargo rack(s), Shield Cell Bank(s), Heat Sink(s), Hatch Breaker Limpet Controller, Limpets and A Rated core internals.


To visit new worlds and boldly get your name on the “first discovered” tag of as many worlds as possible.

You will want: Heat Sink(s), Advanced Discovery Scanner, Detailed Surface Scanner, Automated Module Repair Unit(s), Fuel Scoop, D rated internal modules with A rated Frame Shift Drive. Optionally you may want to add a Planetary Vehicle Hangar and SRV.


Buying and selling goods across the galaxy. The gold paint-jobs were added for traders!

You will want: Cargo rack(s), Smallest shields safely possible, D rated internal modules with A rated Frame Shift Drive. Weapons are optional, while you might want to consider a Fuel Scoop – it makes long-range trades non-stop and more profitable.


Visiting tourist beacons and flying to Colonia and back. Cargo that talks back. A highly profitable line of work.

You will want: Passenger Cabin(s), Fuel Scoop, D rated internal modules with A rated Frame Shift Drive for the best possible jump range. Weapons are optional, but most passenger get upset when you get into a fight instead of getting them to safety.

Or… don’t specialise!

Ships like the Cobra, Python and Anaconda are classed as multi-role for a reason. If you don’t want to get stuck in a “gaming rut” switch it up. Have a passenger cabin and a cargo rack or two and a Kill Warrant scanner. Take cargo to a system, hit the Nav Beacon for a few bounties, then on to the station to cash in and collect a passenger mission. The game is what you make it.

I have the POWER!

This final section is about balancing power. When building a ship, the number of Mega Watts needed can easily exceed the about your best A rated power plant can push out. What to do? Prioritise.

How do you prioritise power?

Well, your FrameShift drive uses a lot of power, but only when it’s on. Your weapons need a lot of power, but only when your hard-points are deployed in combat. This means you can use that power for one set of systems or the other; the ship assumes you want it all at once, but in fact you never will. You see in outfitting a “Retracted” and a “Deployed” usage figure.

A neat little feature of module management is power priority. What you need to do is set those modules you won’t use in combat to a lower priority than the rest of your systems. Your ship’s computer is very smart, so when power gets low, the lower priority items get switched off first.

In practice

I have a Sidewinder (no, really I do) which has 6.4MW power output. I want to put some modules on the ship that will overload the power supply (demand more than 6.4). How far over that amount can I go?

In the Modules TAB of the systems panel, you can see I have changed the Planetary Vehicle hangar to priority 2 and the Frame Shift Drive to priority 3. All my other systems including weapons are still priority 1.

From the station outfitting I can find out how much power each of those modules uses.

The FSD uses 0.16MW and the hangar uses a whopping 0.75MW. If I add those figures to my current maximum of 6.4, then my actual deployed maximum is in fact (with these modules prioritised out) 7.31MW.

If I pop a couple of beam lasers on there, a Class 2A FSD and some Class 2C Bi-Weave shields, although the outfitting screen says I’ve exceeded the maximum of my power plant, I’m laughing because the total (7.15) is less than my new limit of 7.31MW.

Is there a downside? Yes. If you are fighting and losing and your Frameshift is offline due to power prioritisation, then folding your hardpoints will turn it back on, but there will be a time-lag before the FSD can be used. That might make the difference between getting away or getting spaced.

Comments (3) -

  • LuckyLuigi

    8/19/2017 2:13:28 PM | Reply

    A useful tip : You can replenish your air supply simply by flying inside a station. So even if they don't have repair facilities you can recharge your air and hit the next system or station to repair your life support. This is why I only used D life support in the bubble even in my Vulture.

  • Xavi Mendosa

    3/14/2018 3:56:52 PM | Reply

    Nice article, expanded my horizon, thanks.

  • Neutrino

    4/28/2019 1:35:57 PM | Reply

    The "Where to Shop" section seems to be outdated. In the Galaxy Map View tab there is no "Economy" section and no way to filter by "High Tech" or "Refinery". So what's the best way to find high tech systems now?