How to Make Money In No Man's Sky

How to Make Money In No Man’s Sky

Latest posts by Daniel Meierer (see all)

Units are the main currency in No Man’s Sky. Where Nanite Clusters and Salvaged Data might be accepted on the Anomaly, Units are what grease the cogs of the Galactic Trade System. You’ll need them to purchase resources, new starships, intimidating freighters, and powerful multi-tools.

To do that, you’re going to have to collect them first! The average cost for those last three items is generally in the multi-million range. Such lofty numbers might seem intimidating on your first escapade through the stars, but don’t fret. With this guide on how to make money in No Man’s Sky, I’ll make millionaires of you in no time.

Space Scratch, Understanding Units

space scratch no mans sky
Paint your wallet with all the colors of the stars. Photo by Daniel Meierer.
  • Every system has its own economy based on the Galactic Average.
  • For a system’s economy, the optimal Buy modifier is -30%, while for Sell, it is +80%.
  • Scan everything you can, then upload it. While Surveying will give Units and Nanite alone, many side-missions will use your previously uploaded data to calculate further profit.
  • Refining resources such as Ferrite Dust into Pure Ferrite and finally into Magnetized Ferrite will trade for more units than the base resource. 
  • Different Star Systems will have entirely exclusive economies. This can be exploited.
  • Buried Technology houses Salvaged Data. Should you not need it to buy construction blueprints, they can be sold for a whopping 50,000 units.
  • Make an outpost if you find a planet covered in valuable items like Gravitino Balls or Vortex Cubes. 
  • Crops such as Echinocactus and Fungal Clusters can be grown and crafted into Advanced Agricultural Products like Liquid Explosive.
  • Asteroids hide Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Tritium. All these precious resources can be easily acquired by peppering an asteroid field with Starship fire.
  • Freighters will allow you to send Frigates on expeditions, granting you a large sum of units. 
  • Freighters found floating through resources have Cargo Containers on them, which can be attacked to steal them.
  • Only attack Freighters; attacking the individual Cargo Containers will affect your standing with the faction controlling the system.
  • Outlaw Space Stations house Black Market Agents.
  • Buying from Black Market Agents and selling those items to regular Space Stations will net you a hefty profit.

Surveying

no mans sky surveying
Oh boy! Whispering Eggs? That sounds totally harmless! Photo by Daniel Meierer.

The first units to hit your account will come from cataloging the discoveries you make on your journey. Each planet found in No Man’s Sky will be covered in its own flora, minerals, and creatures. Each one will net you a modest sum. 

Surveying isn’t the quickest way to make some scratch, but it will chip at that multimillion-dollar goal all the fanciest starships and frigates will cost you.

Scanning

By activating your Analyzer Vision, you can focus on and scan the planet’s ecosystem for a steady stream of Units and Nanite Clusters.

Scanning new creatures, minerals, and plants will immediately deposit units into your wallet. The amount is entirely based on what you scan. 

  • Minerals will grant you the lowest bonus at 200 units.
  • Plants are in the middle ground granting as low as 200 units to as high as 1500 units based on the size.
  • Animals will give you the greats bonus. Smaller creatures grant between 800 and 1300 units, with enormous creatures contributing between 1500 to 2000 units.

Uploading

uploading discoveries no man's sky
Uploading discoveries. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Uploading can be done from the discoveries tab of your save’s main menu. Doing so will offer a bonus of Nanite Clusters based on each discovery and its type. Clicking the upward pointing arrow next to the first visible option on the list will allow you to upload all of your findings in one click.

Should you wish to gift any of your discoveries with a better name, you can rename discoveries so long as you made them. The game will then force this name onto other players’ eyes after you upload it. If you do not upload your discoveries, another player will be able to scan and upload them.

Suppose all the fauna of a planet is discovered and scanned. In that case, an additional reward can be acquired by clicking the paw print icon in the top right corner of the Creature tab of a planet in the discovery menu.

Trading

trading in no man's sky
I hope ‘Gravitino’ doesn’t mean ‘gravity well if placed in bustles of 50’. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Most of your unit gathering will involve you getting familiar with the Galactic Trade Terminal. These terminals can be found on every space station, with the ability to build one in your Freighter once you obtain one. 

Captains found examining their ships at hangars can be bugged for trade. They will barter with their own items while functioning like a Trade Terminal.

Various points of interest can also be found housing both Terminals and Traders.

The buy and sell rate of items will vary depending on the individual System’s Economy, which can be seen in the Galaxy Map or on your Discoveries Tab. This will show an economy’s Type, Strength, and Buy & Sell modifiers.

Economy Type dictates what type of goods it sells. The six types are Trading, Advanced Materials, Scientific, Mining, Manufacturing, Technology, and Power Generation.

Its Strength will dictate how many of the unique item types that system is selling. Higher-class economies have a higher chance of high-class Starships appearing there.

Finally, and most importantly, Buy & Sell show the modifiers on the system’s market. Systems with a higher sell modifier offer more units per item sold. Meanwhile, systems with a lower Buy modifier will charge higher prices on items the player buys. This price is based on the Galatic Average. 

The Optimal Buy & Sell ranges are -30% and +80%, respectively. These are the maximum modifiers found for both.

Resources

no man's sky resources
By your powers combined, my ability to organize resources gets shattered. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Resources can be gained in several ways. The most common method will be through mining, but some more complex elements will require using a refinery.

Putting most elements through a refiner before shuttling off to the nearest trade terminal or ship trader. For example, the unremarkable Ferrite Dust can be refined into Pure Ferrite and Magnetized Ferrite beyond that for a massive increase in that Ferrite dust stock’s net worth. 

With a periodic table of elements at your disposal, you can quickly get a little stressed about what resources you should keep a good stock of. However, a select few money makers stand out. 

Gold and Platinum

Avg Price 300-500 units per piece

  • Found in asteroids.

You need the Tritium nestled around these veins of precious metal to fuel your starship’s Pulse Engines. Asteroids can be found surrounding most planets. In addition, potent asteroids that look like metallic caltrops can be found. These colorful spiky clusters will grant you a hefty payout of precious metals.

Cadmium, Emeril, & Indium

Avg Price: 200, 300, 400 units respectively.

  • Found in systems with Red, Green, and Blue suns. 

Once you start upgrading your Hyperdrive, you will be capable of transporting yourself to systems with Red, Green, and Blue stars. These Systems each have a resource specific to their star, which you will need to collect in droves as you build more complex tech. These resources are generally found on at least one planet in every system with the corresponding color.

Cobalt

Avg Price: 200 per piece

  • Found in resource deposits and underground minerals.

Cobalt is found in the stalagmites and stalactites of nearly every planet’s cave system. These are a great early way to farm some precious metals as you hunt down the Humming Sacs found in the same caves.

Glowing Crystals

Avg Price: once opening, the insides often are 25,000 units per piece.

  • Found in Buried Minerals & Floating Crystals.

While scavenging for Salvage Data and resources, keep an eye out for Buried Minerals as much as you are Buried Resources. These glowing clusters merely take a bit of mining, but they’ll give you scarce materials such as Herox & Lemmium after opening them with the action button.

Meat

Avg Price: 1,000 units for one unit.

  • Instantly obtained from culled creatures. 

While holding a disadvantage in only allowing 50 pieces per stack, many missions granted by Mission Agents request culling creatures. Rather than toss all that meat or let it rot, be sure to mine any animals you kill to get a healthy helping of flesh for an extra payout.

Items

no man's sky items
By the stars, more stuff to keep track of. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

As you scan the horizon with your Analyzer, you will notice several other potential money makers dotting your view. Although not all of the labels that scatter across your scanner will lead you to quick riches. If you keep your eye out for the following items, you are bound to reach the multiple-million-dollar club with ease.

Vortex Cubes

Avg Price: 5,000 units

  • Appear on the scanner as ‘Subterranean Relics.’
Vortex Cubes
Vortex cubes. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Found on podiums of specific sites and on ‘Vortex Planets,’ which are not designated but infested with them. Keep note of such planets. If the Traveler is lucky, they will stumble across a world overrun with Vortex Cubes. In these cases, they will be found littering cave systems. 

Albumen Pearls

Avg Price – 10,000 units 

  • Found in Sentient Plants above ground. Humming Sacs underground.
Albumen Pearl
Albumen pearls. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Humming Sacs are easy for players to overlook, but they are a valuable beginning item. They are spread apart and only found in cave systems. However, if you collect the Colbat, usually littering the pathway between them, you will get a massive payout.

Effigy

Avg Price – 25,000 units 

  • Dropped by fallen foes and rewarded for side quests.

As you explore the star systems, you will often be accosted by enemies. Be they enemy starships, pirate raids, or sentinels, there is a chance they will drop an effigy made by one of the notable humanoid species. Missions and Sidequests will also routinely reward you with these valuable effigies. Which you can quickly trade.

Gravitino Ball

Avg Price: 40,000 units

  • Planets with High Sentinel Activity.
Gravitino Balls
With these, I can finally afford a doctor for all the radiation! I always did wonder what made them glow, though. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

While there are a few ways to find Gravitino Balls, they will always be found on planets with high sentimental activity. The Analysis Visor will show the Gravitino Ball as a two-star symbol. These Gravitino Balls can also be harvested. This requires the Gravitino Host plant recipe purchased with Salvaged Data from the Anomaly.

Salvage Data

Avg Price: 50,000 units 

  • Found in Buried Technology.

Salvaged Data should be an item you are always on the hunt for. It is the required ‘currency’ to pay for crafting parts and larger pieces of technology. This resource will be found in droves just a few feet under the surface, with an average of two Salvaged Data found at a time. Should you be just a few hundred thousand units short but have a stack of data, it is well worth selling them off and hunting for more later. 

Larval Core

Avg Price: 60,000 Units

  • Found in Whispering Eggs.
Whispering Egg
Oh no, not again. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Whispering Eggs are uniquely dangerous in that harvesting, one will immediately summon a horde of Biological Horrors. Therefore, you should pick up the larval core as soon as possible once it spawns. Then book it out of there as quickly as possible unless you want to take on a horde of horrors. Whispering Cores will often generate around Abandoned Buildings.

Hadal Core

Avg Price: 90,000 Units

  • Found in Submerged Relics.
Hadal Core
As with all of these, I am sure I am safe touching this. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Hadal Cores can also be from Alluring Specimen, Derelict Freighter containers, Suspicious Packets, and missions.

Ancient Bones

Avg Price: 100,000 units

  • Found at Natural Burial Sites.
Ancient Bones
Do you think the Dinosaurs pondered alien life? Photo by Daniel Meierer.

The occasional planet you come across will sometimes mention a world being particularly full of Ancient Bones. I would recommend building an outpost on these sites. All this requires is a teleporter with a generator plugged into it. Burial Sites will give you a randomized assortment of bones upon excavation.

Storm Crystals

Avg Price: 130,000 units

  • Storm Crystals can be found on planets with extreme weather. 
Storm Crystals
Cosmic Poseidon despises these rocks in particular. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Extreme Weather planets can be spotted by the ‘activate’ resources in their scanning description. Storm Crystals can only be harvested while a storm is active.

Farming

no man's sky farming
Being by the window will either motivate these cacti or depress them. Finding out which is the fun part. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

While flora litter every planet you visit, excluding some horrendous worlds that we dare not speak of, they can not all be placed on your farm. The crops afforded to you must first be bought from the Farmer you hired to tend to your Freighter or base. Alternatively, they can be purchased from the Construction Research Station found on the Anomaly. They cost 3 Salvaged Data apiece. 

To grow these crops, you will need Hydroponic Trays and indoor space to place them. Bio-Domes are the best building to put them in, as 16 slots to plant crops are readily provided. Both require their blueprint to be purchased from the Construction Research Station.

Farming is most profitable when combined with Advanced Agricultural Products. The blueprints can be found in Manufacturing Facilities and Operation Centres for the explorers. If you rather not wait, the blueprints can also be purchased from the Synthesis Laboratory found on the Anomaly. 

For example, Lubricant has a total value of 110,000 units and requires 50 Faecium and 400 Gamma Root to craft.

The three most profitable Base Crops are the following. 

  • Gravitino Host, giving an average of 40,000 units per Gravition Ball.
  • NipNip who give an average 45,000 units per NipNip Bud.
  • Finally, Venom Urchin grants an average of 60,000 units per Sac Venom.

Meanwhile, the three most profitable Advanced Agricultural Products based on time and effort to grow the ingredients are the following. 

  • Living Glass averages at 566,000 units require 50 Faecium and 400 Gamma Root for Lubricant, and 200 Silicate Powder, for 5 Glass.
  • Liquid Explosive averages 800,000 units and requires one Acid and one Unstable Gel. Acid requires 25 Mordite and 600 Fungal Mold. While Unstable Gel requires 200 Cactus Flesh.
  • Finally, Circuits average 900,000 units and require a Heat Capacitor and Poly Fibre. A Heat Capacity will set you back 100 Frost Crystals and 200 Solanium. While Poly Fibre requires 100 Cactus Flesh and 200 Star Bulbs.

Mission Board

Missions No Man's Sky
Edgelord McMission here only wants murder and photos of poison. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

In every Space Station, one of the vendors is a Mission Board Agent. These NPCs will offer missions allowing players to increase their standing and, most importantly, gather up some units.

The Mission Agent will initially begin offering low-ranked missions. However, as you raise your standing with the factions controlling the star systems and the various Guilds, these will be replaced with missions with higher ranks, more complex challenges, and far greater rewards. 

The Mission Agent will offer five missions that can all be taken at once. Unless the mission requires you to head to a specific waypoint, they can be completed and returned in any system so long as it has a Space Station. 

Missions will range from merely collecting elements or crafted items or culling creatures to more extensive trials such as raiding a facility or attacking a Freighter.

Freighters

c-class starship

There are many upsides to handling a Freighter, including being able to summon your Exocraft in any system it is in and the ability to grow plants in them. However, while these are both very helpful on your journey to being the wealthiest Traveler in the system, that is not where its most tremendous money-making potential lies. 

By building a Fleet Command Room, you can command a fleet of up to 30 frigates, sending them out on various expeditions that will net you loot and, best of all, piles of units. Of course, you will need multiple Fleet Command Rooms to make full use of the Fleet, as one needs to be free to plan a new Expedition.

The Navigator only presents you with five expeditions, with new ones given daily. Hence, you only need to fret about having five at a time.

There are five types of frigates. The first four specialize in the skill they are named after. Combat, Expedition, Industrial, and Trade. The final variety, Support, is a balanced Frigate with its specialties balanced across the four. 

Similarly, you can send your Fleet on five types of expedition, which is where the units come rolling in. As well as other goodies, based on the kind of expedition you send them on. 

  • Combat will afford you loot salvaged from the enemies they fell in glorious battle! This includes units and high-priced loot, such as Iridesite. 
  • Exploration will also bring back units, but the fleet focuses on bringing back items they have discovered, such as Artifacts and rare loot. 
  • Industrial will net you unique elements like ionized cobalt, activated copper, and special loot like Carbon Crystal.
  • Trade will give you more units, and high-priced items as the Fleet focuses on trade. 
  • Finally, Balanced is a mixed bag of all the loot that might be found across the other expeditions, should you be uncertain about what you hope they return with. 

These expeditions will come with a rating of one to 5 stars. You can have up to five frigates in an expedition, with the star rating of the fleet growing based on how you assemble your team. 

Your fleet team should be one star above the expedition’s to avoid complications that might damage or destroy your precious frigates.

Ship Salvage

no man's sky ship salvaging
Well, tell those drones to put my ship back together. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Crashed Ships appear at random on planetary surfaces. So long as you don’t stumble across a captain parked outside it hoping for a wandering mechanic, you will be able to claim the ship as one of your allotted 9. 

Once you find the claimed ship, you only have two ways to get it to a Ship Salvager located on the nearest space station. 

The Launch Thrusters and Pulse Engine are both damaged, just like when you first encountered your starter ship. The First method is the most obvious. Fix it by obtaining the right resources and items requested of you. 

The Second is only slightly complicated. After claiming the ship, leave it behind temporarily by using the Quick Menu to summon another ship you own. Then, one way or another, make your way to one of your No Man’s Sky bases with an active teleporter. 

Use the Quick Menu to summon your newly claimed scrapped to your ship, then use your base’s teleporter to hurry to the Space Station, and you will find your scrap ship in the hangar ready to be sold. 

Trading ships will grant you an average of 70% of its initial buy cost, but it will be further reduced relative to the number of damaged slots. So, should you have the open spaces and the extra resources, fixing the components will net a more outstanding payday. 

Finding Crashed Ships

crashed ships no man's sky
Finders keepers, loser’s likely stardust. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Crashed Ships can be found in several ways, crashed on land and sunken deep underwater. 

  • Transmission Towers will unlock a Distress Signal on your scanner after solving a number puzzle. Transmission Towers are a type of Inhabited Outpost
  • Signal Boosters are the most common way to find a crashed ship. There is a far higher chance you will encounter an Abandoned Building than the necessary Distress Signal. There is a low chance the crashed ship still has an owner looking for help rather than a free ship available for the claiming. After claiming a signal, it is recommended you move to the other side of the planet before activating your next one.
  • Planetary Charts (Distress Signal) can be purchased from Cartographers in exchange for navigational data. Unfortunately, there is still a high chance of stumbling across an abandoned building instead. 
  • Planetary Charts (Inhabited Outpost) is the same as above, but the gamble is for a Transmission Tower. 
  • However, the method with the most reported success requires access to a Nautilon, the submarine Exocraft. Using the Nautilon Sonar will allow you to hunt down crashed ships. Hunting on Water Rich planets has a higher reported success rate than hunting on planets. 

Bounty Hunting

no man's sky bounty hunt
I have you now. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Bounties are random events you will encounter once you reach interplanetary travel. They have a moderate rarity, so consistent money in this manner is based more on luck. They will commonly show up as you carry Salvaged Data and other rare items, though you may only get a no-name in their stead. 

A pirate with a bounty will be clearly pointed out both by the warning your ship will give you and their waypoint appearing, complete with bounty price. 

Pirate bounties come in three ranks which denote their reward. An average of 100,000 unit rewards come from a ‘mostly harmless’ three-star rated pirate. 200,000 average unit rewards come from ‘Dangerous’ level pirates shown with a skull ranking. Elite-level bounties give you 300,000 units, but the skull-rank pirate comes with a weak lackey.

Successfully taking out bounties when they appear will reward you a nice reward and, if lucky, some equally rewarding suspicious good. In addition, your standing with the faction in control of the system will also increase for taking out their criminals.

Space Piracy

pirating ships in no man's sky
I might have gone overboard on this one. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Why spend all your time whittling away at the Galatic Trade Market when you can simply mine workers like deposits instead? 

The life of a space pirate comes in two distinct flavors. First, consider the difference between being a bombastic bandit and a suave smuggler.

Bombastic Bandit

Bombastic Bandit Method
Silly captain, Asteroid Belts are for starships! Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Before the outlaw update, there was only one way to live the life of a space pirate. The NPC Pirates aren’t the only ones who can raid the Freighters. 

The largest ship in a fleet of freights should be your one and only target, as attacking the rest of the fleet will rapidly destroy your reputation with the faction in control of the system.

They will be covered in 2 to over 30 cargo containers, usually containing massive quantities of Ionize Carbon, Gold, Magnetized Ferrite, Platinum, or Nanite Clusters. This can net thousands of each resource depending on how rich the Freighter was.

They will also have at least one turret, more vital and valuable Freighters having upwards of three. One will usually be on the top side of the Freighter, while one to two will be on the bottom.

You should target a cargo container first. Attacking a Cargo Container will ignite a one-star wanted level with the Sentinels. While shooting one of the Freight’s turrets will immediately cause a two-star wanted level, meaning two angry starships instead of one. 

Afterward, remove the turrets but leave the Sentinel until you want to warp. Reinforcements won’t arrive until you take that lone Sentinel out; they will multiply each time more arrive. It is best to focus on collecting the cargo containers and moving on.

It is crucial you remember attacking just the large Cargo Container littered Freighter will allow you to perform Space Piracy without ruining your standing with the faction controlling the system. However, attacking any Cargo Ships following the Freighter will cause your standing to drop. Each individual cargo ship you destroy will cause your rank to drop by one.

The Outlaw Update has added Pirate Freighters, found circling Outlaw Systems. These Freighters will be full of smuggled goods, allowing you to combine the best of the Bandit and Smuggler methods.

Suave Smuggler

Suave Smuggler Method
Say what you want, I like their style. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

It might not feel as punchy as being a bandit. Still, Han Solo didn’t make his reputation as a stunning scoundrel by destroying ships! 

The tricky part will be locating that elusive Black Market selling the illegal contraband needing smuggling. A Black Market Agent will have everything you need. From banned weapons to whatever GrahGrahs are, the Black Market Agent has you back long as you got theirs. 

Black Market Agents can only be found on Outlaw Stations. Outlaw Stations are Space Stations that have been taken over by pirates. Besides randomly stumbling across one, they can be found in two ways.

Using an Economy Scanner, you can tell what a system’s trade network is like. For example, at the end of the economy section, if it says Black Market, it is overrun by pirates.

Meanwhile, with a Conflict Scanner, a system with an Outlaw Station will show a skull system designating it as Pirate Controlled under the conflict section of a star system.

Once you buy all the goods you can carry, find your way back to an official space Station to sell them off for units.

FAQ

Question: How do I get a Freighter in No Man’s Sky for free?

Answer: As you warp around the galaxy, typically five jumps, you will eventually come across a mission notice climbing a Freight is under attack by pirates. Kill all the Pirates attacking the Freight, which will cause you to be hailed by the Captain. Upon entering the Freighter, the Captain will offer the Freighter to you for free.

While it is easy to jump the gun and accept this first Freighter, other players have noted that the second free Freighter you come across in this manner is always better. So you are advised to either request payment or decline the offer entirely. 

Players have noticed it taking three hours before the Pirate Raids will happen again, so take the time to explore the new systems for resource-heavy planets as you continue charting the entire galaxy. 
I have tested this and can attest to it working.

Question: What does the Economy Scanner do in No Man’s Sky?

Answer: When you initially begin, the only way to check a system’s economy is to warp to it. This can take a lot of time and, worse, Antimatter. An Economy Scanner will automatically tell you how prosperous the economy is and what type of trade they focus on without ever traveling there. This information will be visible by hovering your cursor over the system on the galaxy map.

Question: What is the fastest way to make money in No Man’s Sky?

Answer: The quickest way I found involves a little luck but nets me ~6 million units in ten minutes. Keep an eye out for planets with highly aggressive Sentinel activity. There is a slight chance that the same planet will be littered with Gravitino Balls. 

You will know this is the right place because they will be found in clusters of two to eight and seem to be spawning within a few feet of each other. Build yourself an outpost with a teleporter and an Exocraft. Use the Exocraft to get even more Gravitino balls. Continue to visit this planet whenever you are five million short of that ship you want. Ancient Bones and Scrap planets are also brilliant places to build a teleport-outpost.

Conclusion: How to Make Money In No Man’s Sky?

The Gravitino Racket
The Gravitino Racket has proven to be far, far safer than the Larval Core hunt. Photo by Daniel Meierer.

Units are not that hard to come by in No Man’s sky, once you know the trick that doesn’t feel like your new endless chore. Thankfully, the galaxy is bubbling with get-rich-quick schemes that not only work but can sometimes become so focus-consuming that you completely forget what you were saving up for in the first place just to gather just another truckload of glorious gravitino.

Thanks to my beloved Gravition Outpost, I am only ever a teleport away from affording whatever new shiny caught my eye. However, thanks to how quick Starships are to leave a Space Station, I wouldn’t slow down if you are looking for an upgrade.

With ten or twenty million in your pocket, you’ll be able to afford all but the most powerful of Freighters, and there are plenty of ways to gather that savings based on your play style.

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