Rocket fuel is one of the most lucrative planetary materials in EVE Online that can be produced by just a single player. Unlike other, more convoluted plans, making rocket fuel with this method is simple and utilizes minimal human effort once it is set up.
This guide explains everything that you need to know to produce rocket fuel. A basic familiarity with planetary interaction is assumed. If you are unfamiliar with planetary interaction, you may need to read some of our other articles to familiarize yourself. These include our guides to profiting from planets, producing Robotics, single-planet business options, and the recent changes to planetary interaction.
The Necessary Skills
In order to use this business model, you must train Command Center Upgrades IV, Interplanetary Consolidation II, and Remote Sensing I. Training up Planetology will allow you to locate "hotspot" deposits of materials with greater accuracy and thus allow better yields. It is a good idea to get that to at least III.
A Suitable Location
A suitable solar system must be located at a location convenient for you. This solar system must contain planets with the two ingredients needed to produce rocket fuel, and a third planet to use as a factory. The first planet must be either a storm planet (ideally) or gas planet (less ideal). The second must be a storm planet, plasma planet, or lava planet. The third's type is irrelevant, but it should be the smallest planet not yet used in the chosen solar system. The larger a planet is, the more power connections between structures will cost. Because gas giants generally have very large radiuses, they are usually not the ideal choice.
Because storm planets can be a bit rare, it is often best to use them for gathering ionic solutions, and then get your plasmoids from any of the other sources. If you have several storm planets in one system, you may wish to consider scaling up your operation accordingly.
Equipment and Costs
You will need a command center of the appropriate type for each of the planets that you decide to use. The command center itself will not be expensive, but upgrading it to level III or IV will cost a few million ISK, depending on how high you take it.
The recommended skills involved will cost 2.15mil ISK, at NPC prices.
The planets where you will source your electrolytes and plasmoids will have nearly identical designs. Let's call them harvest planets. First, scan for the appropriate resource and play with your scanner slider until you have found a really good spot. Plant your command center there, then build a space port a little away from it. Build an extractor head next to the space port (or situated as ideally as it can be, given the resource layout on that planet). Connect the extractor head to the spaceport and get it harvesting as much as it can. The product should be sent directly into the space port.
Now, make four or five basic industry facilities in a ring around your space port. Get them as close to the space port as possible, and connect them to it. Configure them to process your harvested material and send it back into the space port. E.g. if this is your electrolyte planet, you should set the industry facilities to turn ionic solutions into electrolyes. Click on the space port again and set it to send the appropriate ingredient into each of the industry facilities. You will need to wait for a quick extractor cycle to be able to select the material and route it properly.
Depending on your exact setup, the planetary radius, and your needs, you may wish to make a second extractor head with a few more extractor heads.
Note that there is no real need to connect your command center to anything. Indeed, it wastes a bit of grid to do so. One might conceivably use it as a bit of extra storage space, but it is unlikely to matter. Plus transferring goods from there to the space port each time you wish to collect your harvest from this planet will add several annoying clicks with minimal benefit. Just leave it be.
Getting Harvest Planets Right
Note that at first there will likely be an imbalance between your materials extracted and the rate that your industry facilities can process them. If you are on a resource rich facility, you may harvest too much, too fast. This is especially true if you cycle your planets more than once, each day. If this is the case, you may want less extractor heads and more industry facilities.
So if you did all of the above right, you should have two harvest planets that are putting out gobs of product. Now to put it to use! Place your command center on your chosen planet. It doesn't matter where. Nearby, set up two space ports, with several chains of connected advanced industry facilities between them. One of your space ports will be for electrolytes, and the other for plasmoids. Set them up to put their ingredients into each of the the advanced industry facilities, and then to have half of the products sent to each.
A planet devoted to purely being a factory can combine huge amounts of ingredients in just a few hours.
In my example picture, I have rather overdone it. Most pilots will probably not require so many industry facilities. But with such a large factory planet, I can get a really quick turnaround on my ingredients and have even been able to supplement my own materials with extra from buy orders on the market.
The Care And Feeding
Each time you are tending your planets, you will empty the harvest planets and put their products into your factory planet. While at the factory planet you can pick up your finished rocket fuel. The more you reset your extractor heads, the more you will need to visit. I find that short cycles are better if you are doing something else at the same time, like sitting in a gate camp or running missions.
For my planets in null-security space, it seems like I can get away with running 24 hour cycles, and only needing to empty them every three days. Your mileage may vary, however. Any excess ingredients that will not fit in your factory planet can be left in the customs center or a station, as appropriate.
Depending on the exact state of the market at a given moment, rocket fuel may or may not seem like the best material to make with planets. As of this writing, it is in the top three materials of its tier when ranked by value. The actual process adds about 6250 ISK to the value of the ingredients per processed cycle, per industry facility. More important than the added value is the additional likelihood of sale. Very few people outside of Jita will buy electrolytes or plasmoids from sell orders. Sure, there will be insultingly low buy orders, but you don't want to fill those. Rocket fuel, on the other hand, has an essential use as an ingredient in tech two missile production that makes it be in a constant, near-bottomless demand.
The exact value of your product will vary based on whether you are in high-security space, null-sec, low-sec, or W-space. The more dangerous the location (in CCP's eyes), the richer the planets. It will also vary depending on how often you cycle and empty your planets, and how many others are competing for the same resources on those planets. If you are trying to use planets a few jumps out from a market hub, odds are that there will be others draining the planet dry and reducing your profits to a marginal level. Assuming that you find a good series of planets and use a 24 hour cycle, you should be able to pull in several million ISK per planet, per day. Not bad at all, especially considering the minimal effort required.