No Man's Sky Wiki
The subject of this article is from the Prisms update.
The information from this article is up-to-date as of 31 August, 2021.

Pirates scanning the player

Pirates are hostile NPC characters.


Pirates are hostile NPC characters in the form of starships that attack the player, and sometimes NPC freighters.

If a player's standing with the controlling faction of the system they are in is high enough, other NPC starships may come to the aid of the player if they are attacked by pirates. Non-hostile NPC starships may also defend freighters attacked by pirates.


Pirate Scanner

Pirates attack players regardless of a system's conflict level. The level, however, determines their overall strength and maximum squadron size.

When in space, the circular meter will sometimes appear full and begin to drain. When it reaches zero, a pirate attack may be triggered. Sometimes, however, a bounty, or freighter attack event is triggered instead.

Entering a planet's atmosphere before the detection is completed will stop the countdown, but it will begin again the next time the player goes to space. However, if the player enters atmosphere after the pirates engage combat, the pirates will follow them.


Pirates come in many facets, but most importantly they come in ranks. Normal pirates rank from zero stars to three with three-star pirates easily melting through any ship's shield that is below mid-tier for shields to sustain fire or weapons to return it in time. It doesn't matter if they fly a Hauler or an Explorer, on A-Rank or S-Rank all are equipped with advanced weapons and deadly to an unseasoned player. If you don't have the weapons and shields to beat them after refusing their bribe but the drive to ditch, run! Also, if you own a freighter, you can summon it and its defence turrets will help you deal with the pirates.

Pirate assaults can be conducted by groups of one zero-star ship up to an entire squadron of six or more with several three-star ships at once. It is important to not underestimate your enemy before you decide to engage them, as even well-equipped ships with massive shields will need several loads of Sodium Nitrate to sustain an elite pirate squadron of A-Rank three-star medium or heavy fighters. Yet, those are rare.

The strength of a pirate is completely unrelated to the conflict level and random. Level 0 squads spawning in Conflict 3 and level 3 squads spawning in Conflict 1 systems in regular intervals have been observed.


The list is based on empirical data!

Conflict Level 1:

  • Overall (1-2 pirates, max strength 4)
  • Low (1-2 pirates, combined strength up to 4 stars)
  • Mild (1-2 pirates, combined strength up to 0 stars)
  • Unthreatening (1-2 pirates, combined strength up to 4 stars)
  • Untroubled (1 pirate, combined strength up to 3 stars)

Conflict Level 2:

  • Overall (1-3 pirates, max strength 7)
  • Boisterous (1-3 pirates, combined strength up to 0 stars)
  • Intermittent (1-3 pirates, combined strength up to 7 stars)
  • Medium (1-2 pirates, combined strength up to 1 stars)
  • Unruly (1-2 pirates, combined strength up to 2 stars)
  • Unstable (1-3 pirates, combined strength up to 1 stars)

Conflict Level 3:

  • Overall (1-5 pirates, max strength 9)
  • Aggressive (1-5 pirates, combined strength up to 8 stars)
  • Alarming (1-5 pirates, combined strength up to 0 stars)
  • At War (1-5 pirates, combined strength up to 0 stars)
  • Destructive (1-5 pirates, combined strength up to 9 stars)
  • High (1-5 pirates, combined strength up to 8 stars)
  • Critical (1-5 pirates)
  • Dangerous (1-5 pirates)
  • Formidable (1-5 pirates)
  • Lawless (1-5 pirates)
  • Perilous (1-5 pirates)

Avoiding Pirates[]

If the player wants to avoid a pirate attack after being detected, they can use their communicator to speak to the pirate ships before they attack. The player can choose to give their cargo or units to the pirates, attempt to bargain, or call for help if they have a defence chit.

If the pirate has already engaged combat, the player can activate their pulse drive to fly to a safe distance in order to enter hyperspeed and escape.

If a pirate scan is not complete and you're close to a planet atmosphere or space station, you can plan a timed evasive maneuver and cause the pirate scan to fail. This is completed by entering a planet atmosphere or space station just as the scan countdown is completed. If timed correctly you will receive an indication that the pirate scan failed.

To keep pirates uninterested in you, traveling with non-valuable items is a safer way to travel. After a scan, pirates may choose to ignore you.

It is also recommended that you install an Emergency Warp Unit on your starship beforehand. That way if you ever run into these kinds of situations, you can escape. Prior to Synthesis, it was always possible to warp during a space battle via normal means.


Destroying pirate ships may reward the player with units or resources such as Lemmium, Herox and Magnetised Ferrite, as well as increased standing with the current system's faction. Also, the shields of the player's starship are completely recharged once combat ends.

Rewards for defending freighters from pirate attacks must be claimed by speaking to the freighter's captain.

Bounty Hunting[]

Players can chase pirates by taking bounty hunting missions in the Mission Board.

Playing as a Pirate[]

Players can choose to engage in piracy themselves by attacking a freighter or other ships in a space fleet. Doing this will alert Sentinel Drone Starships, who will engage in combat with the player. Selected ships display their cargo in the same way as resources do. Upon destruction, the ship will release any cargo it holds and the player who destroyed the ship will collect it.