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Elite: Dangerous adds Fleet Carriers, with players staged for a massive expedition

The Aphelion Expedition launches over the next 48 hours

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The Fleet Carrier from Elite Dangerous Image: Frontier Developments
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Elite: Dangerous adds the hugely anticipated Fleet Carrier starships to its roster today, and a dedicated group of players are assembling for a massive flotilla to the furthest reaches of the virtual Milky Way galaxy. Even new players should be able to come gawk at the spectacle kicking off in the next 24 hours.

Players have been mining for months to earn enough in-game currency to buy the new Carriers, which cost billions to acquire and maintain. Carriers essentially serve as mobile starbases, with facilities that allow for refit, repair, and storage of up to 16 smaller ships. They also have an incredible jump range of 500 lightyears. That’s more than 100 times further than a starting ship and 10 times further than some high-end, exploration-focused starships.

Crucially, Fleet Carriers will also allow players to sell their hard-earned exploration data. That will help to open up the remote corners of Elite’s galaxy to inspection. Since the game launched in 2015 only .042% of its 400 billion star systems have actually been visited.

A map of the Milky Way with the location of Fleet Carriers from the DSSA overlaid on top of it.
This composite image shows the proposed location of every DSSA Fleet Carrier. The background is a map of every player’s travels across the Milky Way as recorded by fan website Elite Dangerous Star maps and aggregated by The bright lines from top to bottom represent the flight path from the starting “bubble” of populated space to Beagle Point, one of the game’s most distant planets. Expect many more bright lines in the future if the DSSA is a success.
Image: Commander Qohen Leth

A player-led effort hopes to position at least one Fleet Carrier in each of Elite’s far-flung sectors of space. Called the Deep Space Support Array (DSSA), it should help make exploration much safer for players who must travel for weeks or months at a time. The first group of 10 DSSA Fleet Carriers leaves in the next 24 hours. The flotilla, which includes nearly 160 players, calls itself the Aphelion Expedition.

Members of the Aphelion Expedition have been preparing for weeks now. Most are already gathered at BD-22 3573, a highly-trafficked star system within the populated “bubble” of Elite’s inhabited space and well within the reach of most players.

This will be the first major test of the organization required to keep Fleet Carriers up and running. Once the Carriers have been moved into position, players will begin fueling them with a new in-game resource called Tritium. They should then cross to Explorer’s Anchorage, a remote starbase in the center of the Milky Way, in a matter of days. The same trip normally takes weeks. Once there, refueling operations will begin with additional players and support Carriers coming from the distant Colonia system.

The trip will be taking place entirely inside a private instance of the Elite: Dangerous game world, so it should be largely free from interference by griefers. However, Fleet Carriers are considered locations in the game. They’re cross-platform entities, which means anyone playing on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, or Xbox One can stop by BD-22 3573 to watch the proceedings. The update should be live today following some extended downtime.

Polygon will be along for the ride on board DSSA #1 — the headquarters Fleet Carrier called Sleeper Service — piloted by Commander Qohen Leth. Look for more stories about the Aphelion Expedition in the weeks to come.

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