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Elite: Dangerous’ epic, 8-month space expedition has begun. (Update)

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To the edge of the Milky Way and back

Distant Worlds 2, the epic spacefaring expedition within Elite: Dangerous, kicks off this afternoon at 3 p.m. ET. Numerous players among the nearly 10,000 expected to participate are streaming the adventure; you can watch it all begin right here.

The event, a sequel to 2016’s Distant Worlds expedition, will take place on all three platforms (PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One) in three regions (Europe, the Americas and Oceania). The European expedition, led by Cmdr. Dr. Kaii (a veteran of the first trek) kicks off first, followed five hours later by the Americas (Cmdr. Kancro Vantas) at 8 p.m. ET and then Oceania (Cmdr. Drebin Omega) at 5 a.m. ET.

Update 3:45 p.m. ET: In a not-unexpected turn of events, the stress created by so many ships jumping out at the same time brought down Elite: Dangerous’ servers for many. The expedition is continuing, and its archived launch is now at the top of the post. But many Elite: Dangerous players are unable to log in, even in solo play, while others continue the trek.

The last time Elite: Dangerous saw anything close to this size was a 3,000-player scrum back in 2017 — but they were more spread out along a predetermined route, and weren’t warping out of a system together.

As the fleet spreads out, performance should improve. Still, we’ve reached out to a Frontier Developments representative for their insights as to what is taking place and when things might recover.

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Dr. Kaii’s stream, via YouTube gaming, is at top. The expedition’s official site is also maintaining a list of more than 30 other streams broadcasting the trip.

Distant Worlds 2 begins in the Pallaeni system and is headed to Beagle Point, a remote system in one of the far spokes of the Milky Way, 65,279 light years from the Sun. Reaching Beagle Point and returning safely is one of the highest distinctions for any explorer in the game. The 2016 Distant Worlds expedition also went to Beagle Point; here is a gallery of almost 5,000 images of that journey, segmented by waypoint.

Event organizers have drawn up a course and objectives along the path, such as exploration, mining and even combat events. There is a heavy role-playing element to all of this, with captains of spacefighters tasked with security while large freighter pilots are hauling essential materiel, and a medical corps stages rescues, among several roles and duties.

The round trip expedition will cover almost 200,000 light years and take a total of eight months to complete. Much of the path is still unexplored. Elite: Dangerous strives to be an accurate representation of the galaxy, with a procedural generation engine called the Stellar Forge helping fill out as many as 400 billion star systems players may discover.