Docking in Elite Dangerous is partly what currently makes this game a simulation as opposed to an arcade game. Frontier Developments have also added a docking computer which requires class 1 internal fitting.
The docking sequence:
- Firstly, you need to be in the immediate area around the dockable station, so the station itself will be visible and within 8,500m.
- You should be flying towards the docking bay a reasonable distance from the entrance portal.
- If you place yourself into the best position before starting to dock, you will find it easier.
- Within 8,500m, open the left console by pressing  (or the key that you may have reassigned).
- From the left console you will see “tabs” along the top showing:
Navigation, Contacts, Sub-targets, Cargo
- Press [Q] or [E] to move from tab to tab. For docking you need to select the Contacts tab and press [W] or [S] to move up and down the list. Press space bar to select and from the options select request docking clearance.
- On some bases I think they were just busy and you may need to make a few requests. Don’t proceed though until you have clearance, as entering the docking portal without it will trigger a lethal response..
- Once approved, I just press [Insert] to lower the landing gear early and start moving through the access portal. You can also select it from , select the Functions tab and select it from the list. The station is turning, so keep adjusting as you go through, don’t go too slowly as it is harder and you don’t really want to meet anybody while you are going through.
- Make a careful note of the number you have been assigned. Don’t dock or get too close to any other landing pads.
- Just fly towards the pad until you are over it. I assigned the backspace key to speed 0%. This helps when you are over the center of the landing pad. [R] and [F] are vertical thrusts accordingly, so ease yourself down most of the way. [Q] and [E] this time are used for side thrusting, so are useful for placing your ship directly over the center of the landing pad.
- The helping guide should appear showing your ship. You can see your center position which will need to be in the middle to dock.
- Bear in mind the view is slightly angled, so you should take that into account. I have a second visual check I lowered the landing gear which is lower right. Once the colour is blue, press [F] to slowly descend.
- If you have done it right (and you have about 10 minutes to dock), you will land and the station service will be available.
- To select a new system or cruise destination, press  to bring up the left console and [Q] to select Navigation. Then press [W] or [S] to move down the list until you can see your destination. Press Space to select this and press target. You can also set a route through multiple systems via the galaxy map.
- Select launch permission and wait for the animation to finish. Press [R] to vertical thrust, and [W] to start moving forward slowly. Don’t go straight into the middle without checking for other players nearby.
- At the very rear of some stations there is a structure you will bang into if you press [R] to the middle of the station docking area, so you need to go forward quite early.
- Press [Insert] to remove landing gear. You have 5 minutes to leave the station, so adjust your exit for any other ships docking or leaving.
- It is best to line up again before attempting to leave the access portal and to leave within the blue recommended speed on the gauge.
- Don’t hang around in the access portal as it will quickly trigger a lethal response.
- Exit the station and start lining up to your next destination.
- Outside of the mass locked area around the station, press [J] to jump or super cruise.
- You may need to accelerate before your jump or cruise initiates. Some stations like Azeban in Eranin are a bit annoying and you can’t super cruise away without aligning yourself with an exit corridor. You will quickly start heating up, so be ready to press [J] again to cancel the request and cool down, otherwise you may lose the ship.
- If your destination is obscured by another object (planet is directly in the path), you may need to set the destination temporarily to a location in system, enter supercruise and reset the original destination once your are clear of the planet.
T Docking Computer (internal class 1) has been added with beta 1.03 which makes docking easier. For this you just line up to in front of the docking portal as usual. When you request docking clearance it will enable the docking computer to take control. You just need to reduce your speed as instructed.
Things to avoid
While in Beta, I did have a few things that came up which will save losing your ship:
- When exiting super cruise, leave as you get just below 1000 KM. It will place you in a destination locked location anyway, so a short distance from the station. I was trying to drop out close to the station and although it worked most of the time, other times I literally exited either on top of or smashed into the side of the station.
- When exiting the station once I pressed [Delete] accidentally and the ship was placed into a minimal silent running mode. I couldn’t find the button to switch it off (as I hadn’t used it before) and the heat inside the ship increased quite quickly. I ended up losing the ship while checking through the controls list. If you don’t use silent running very often, you might consider remapping it.
- If you are salvaging just outside the station, be aware it is rotating and in most cases will cause damage to your ship. Don’t get too close as you can get trapped in the architecture of the station. I didn’t lose a ship to this one, but it was tricky side and vertical thrusting out.
Click here to view the official docking guide video: