Appreciate the links. I have used riemer's site a bit. He has some good starting points though his code is outdated and doesn't compile so you have to fix it a little as it was designed to run in older versions of xna.
His xwing example is one of the camera angles i'm going for (the other being the cockpit view which is basically a first person camera)
A lot to read a lot to take in but that's the fun of it!
I will look into mesh instancing first. My prototype right now just uses a skybox with a starfield texture painted over it but as the game is more sandbox, I'd like to actually have stars that are stars on the screen as opposed to just particles i randomly throw out there.