Starfield Ship Building Guide: How to increase your Pilot License and Install Stronger Ship Modules

It doesn’t take a degree in rocket physics to understand that one of the most important parts of the Starfield gameplay loop revolves around steadily upgrading your ship - whether it might be the starter Frontier cruiser, or one of the various other ships that you can purchase, steal, salvage or receive as part of a sidequest. As well as basic upgrades, you can indulge in full-on ship building - which is particularly addictive.

However, one of the more confusing aspects of ship building is exactly how to unlock and utilize powerful ship modules. You'll have access to basic modules at the start of the game - but to unlock the truly powerful stuff you'll need to put in some work and invest. 

Just like with the Boost Pack and Lockpicking, this is another simple and major mechanic that Starfield holds to old RPG tradition by locking behind a skill tree upgrade. Specifically, in order to unlock the deeper depths of ship building, you'll need to put some of your precious skill points into two particular areas: your Piloting Skill, and your Shipbuilding Skill.

With these skills unlocked, you'll be able to install a wide range of modules and parts - including the exclusive parts found only at certain Ship Manufacturers and the much larger and more useful habitats described in our habs guide.

Upgrading Piloting Skill to unlock more Ship Parts

The Piloting perk not only gives you better control over your ship - it unlocks more powerful ships, too.
The Piloting perk not only gives you better control over your ship - it unlocks more powerful ships, too.

Within Starfield's Settled Systems, there exist 3 Classes of Spaceship - A, B and C. While players can pilot A Class vessels from the start of the game, stronger modules - including reactors and grav drives, in particular - require you to have a license to pilot either B Class or C Class vessels.

While you might have the credits to purchase these upgrades, you won’t actually be able to install them properly if your Pilot Skill isn’t up to the task. You'll need to pump points into the Piloting class and destroy enemy ships to achieve mastery and unlock everything.

Specifically, you’ll need to have your Pilot Skill at Rank 3 to pilot B Class vessels, and Rank 4 to pilot C Class ships.

Unlocking more Ship Parts with the Starship Design Skill

While having a license to pilot B and C Class ships is all well and good, that’s only one half of the puzzle. Stronger modules within the same class of ship might require a higher Starship Design Skill Rank in order to purchase them. This means that players will want to invest in both equally in order to best optimize their ships; whether that might be for the purpose of space travel, space combat, or both.

One wrinkle to note is that certain ships might actually come with modules pre-installed that would require a higher Shipbuilding Skill to access on your own. For example, the Star Eagle - a ship you can unlock as part of the Freestar Rangers quest chain - comes kitted out with plenty of modules that would require a max Shipbuilding Skill in order for you to access them naturally.

Putting points into the Starship Design skill will open up your ship building horizons much more widely.

Another consideration is that unlocking the base Shipbuilding Skill in the first place will take considerable investment in the Tech skill tree; it’s a Tier 3 Tech skill, which means that you’ll have to invest over half a dozen skill points into the tree in order to even access it in the first place. 

It’s safe to say that upgrading your ships will be a long-term goal of anyone’s playthrough - but similarly, investing in the ability to upgrade your ship is essential, especially as certain solar systems might require even stronger grav drives to access, that in turn might task the player to invest in these vital skills.