CCP explains that while it has committed to releasing two free expansions for the spacefaring MMO each year, "we also have a commitment to make them excellent." To strike a balance between the two commitments, the first two parts will be released this year.
On November 30 a "beefy mini-expansion" will launch with planned changes including balance tweaks and new courier missions, followed before Christmas by the second patch, whose contents CCP says "only Santa knows." Lastly, the third will come in January 2011, adding the new character creator and Sansha Incursions PvE content.
As another dev blog post details, the Incursions will see the techno-zombie NPCs Sansha's Nation invading New Eden "anywhere, at any time, from null-sec alliance space to high-sec travel routes." Players can beat them out by defeating new sites--aimed variously at 5-10 pilots, 10-20 and 20-40--then a final boss battle.