Yep for sure give the controller a try first. The amount of buttons you need to efficiently control your ship in a dogfight I am not sure you will be able to do all that with a 360 controller, but like I said try it first and you'll know for sure after an hour or so gameplay if you need a proper HOTAS or the 360 pad will be fine. Elite has a shit ton of ship controls already and they are adding more stuff as the beta progresses. If the game is installed just jump into the controls screen to see what I mean.
You can assign different controls to use during docking from the controls used during dogfighting, primary weapons, secondary weapons, landing gears, silent running modes, power distributions between systems etc etc. You'll see.