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Salvaging is the process of obtaining useful resources from Wrecks, the remains of ships that have been lost for various reasons. Wreck may yield valuable minerals, research information and modules. Salvaging the battlefield is important, both in terms of learning about the enemy and preventing him from learning about you.
Wrecks are either the remains of a ship or derelict ships, which are found floating around the system. Some are vessels that were destroyed in past battles, some became stranded and were abandoned, while others are the remains of ancient civilizations. These wrecks may contain valuable components and materials that can be salvaged by a salvager ship.
Any time a ship has been destroyed a wreck will be left behind. Wrecks come in different sizes and compositions, and have different amounts of resources and research information in them. Empires mark wrecks with beacons, both to find the wreckage of their own ships and to warn of a navigational hazard. You can toggle the display of Wrecks on/off using the Wreck checkbox on the System Map F9.
To salvage a wreck, you will need any ship fitted with a salvage module, and a cargo components to recover the salvage. Either build a ship with both, or have a salvager and freighter ship in the same Task Group. Then send the ship\TG to a wreck with the "salvage" order selected from order menu. Ship should go and salvage anything worth salvaging on that wreck. The module's rating tells you how much wreck tonnage the module can recover per day. You'll get 10% of the wreck's tonnage in minerals. This can be improved by a ship commander with 'Factory Production Bonus' trait.
When you salvage a wreck you may get materials, research information and components. The rule of thumb is that the bigger the ship and more advanced the race, the better the yield.
You may get research information, either directly at the point of salvage or by disassembling any components you recover. If you gain research information directly from a wreck, your salvage ship will download it to any colony with a research facility. If there is no such colony in the current system, the salvage ship will retain the data until it enters a system with a research facility. You can control this by selecting the "do not not release tech data" checkbox on the history/notes/techdata tab of the individual ship details screen.
If you find components, some of these may be of a much higher technology level than your current tech, these can be used to gain research points through reverse engineering, or just scraped for minerals otherwise. If you disassemble components, that research information will be allocated to the colony at which the component is disassembled. Therefore it is a good idea to disassemble components at a colony with research facilities, or a specific one if you the research is already underway.