The Death Star is a fictional mobile space station and galactic superweapon featured in the Star Wars space-opera franchise. The first Death Star, introduced in the original Star Wars film, is stated to be more than 120 kilometers (75 mi) in diameter, and is crewed by an estimated 1.7 million military personnel and 400,000 droids. The second Death Star, which appears in Return of the Jedi, is significantly larger at between 160 kilometres (99 mi) to 900 kilometres (560 mi) in diameter, and technologically more powerful than its predecessor. Both versions of these moon-sized fortresses are designed for massive power-projection capabilities, each capable of destroying an entire planet with a 6.2x1032 J/s power output blast from its superlasers.
Original Death Star
|First appearance||Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker (novel, 1976)|
|Last appearance||Rogue One (2016)|
|Launched||n/a, Constructed in space.|
|Combat vehicles||TIE Fighters|
|Class||Space Battle Station|
|Defenses||Turbolasers , Laser Cannons, Tractor beams and Ion Cannons|
|Maximum speed||Light Speed|
|Power||Able to destroy a ship, city or planet.|
|Width||160 km (varies depending on source and not mentioned in films)|
|Height||120 km in radius|
Origin and design
Although details, such as the superlaser's location, shifted between different concept models during production of Star Wars, the notion of the Death Star being a large, spherical space station over 100 kilometers in diameter was consistent in all of them. George Lucas gave the original task of designing a "Death Star" to concept artist and spaceship modeler Colin Cantwell, who had collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In a 2016 interview, Cantwell related that "I didn't originally plan for the Death Star to have a trench, but when I was working with the mold, I noticed the two halves had shrunk at the point where they met across the middle." As it "would have taken a week of work just to fill and sand and refill this depression," Cantwell suggested a trench to Lucas to save the labor. Lucas liked the idea, and the Death Star model was created by John Stears. The buzzing sound counting down to the Death Star firing its superlaser comes from the Flash Gordon serials. Portraying an incomplete yet powerful space station posed a problem for Industrial Light & Magic's modelmakers for Return of the Jedi. Only the front side of the 137-centimeter model was completed, and the image was flipped horizontally for the final film. Both Death Stars were depicted by a combination of complete and sectional models and matte paintings.
The Death Star explosions featured in the Special Edition of A New Hope and in Return of the Jedi are rendered with a Praxis effect, wherein a flat ring of matter erupts from the explosion.
The grid plan animations shown during the Rebel briefing for the attack on the Death Star late in A New Hope were an actual computer-graphics simulation from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory made by Larry Cuba and Gary Imhoff as part of a CalArts project, and had been included during filming.
The original Death Star was introduced in the original Star Wars film, which later had elements of its backstory explored in Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Rogue One. The second Death Star appears in Return of the Jedi, and a similar superweapon, the Starkiller Base, appears in The Force Awakens. Finally, the wreckage of the second Death Star plays some role in the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker.
Original Death Star
The original Death Star's completed form appears in Star Wars: A New Hope, known as the DS-1 Orbital Battle Station, or Project Stardust in Rogue One; before learning the true name of the weapon, the Rebel Alliance referred to it as the "Planet Killer". Commanded by Governor Tarkin, it is the Galactic Empire's "ultimate weapon", a huge spherical battle station 160 kilometers in diameter capable of destroying a planet with one shot of its superlaser. The film opens with Princess Leia transporting the station's schematics to the Rebel Alliance to aid them in destroying the Death Star. To mark the Death Star being fully operational, Tarkin orders the Death Star to destroy Leia's home world of Alderaan in an attempt to press her into giving him the location of the secret Rebel headquarters; she gives them the location of Dantooine which housed a now-deserted Rebel base, but Tarkin has Alderaan destroyed anyway as a demonstration of the Empire's resolve. Later, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO, and R2-D2 are pulled aboard the station by a tractor beam, where they discover and manage to rescue Princess Leia. As they make their escape, Obi-Wan dies duelling Darth Vader, enabling the others to flee the station. Later, Luke returns as part of a fighter force to attack its only weak point: a ray-shielded particle exhaust vent leading straight from the surface directly into its reactor core. Luke is able to successfully launch his X-wing fighter's torpedoes into the vent, impacting the core and triggering a catastrophic explosion, which destroys the station before it can use its superlaser weapon to annihilate the Rebel base on Yavin 4.
The first Death Star's schematics are visible in the scenes on Geonosis in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones showcasing the early development of the Death Star prototype. The Death Star plans were designed by Geonosians led by Archduke Poggle the Lesser, a member of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, and is shown early in construction at the end of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. The Death Star plans are a central plot-point in the 2016 film Rogue One and the original 1977 film Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The Death Star began as a Geonosian design, but became operational after nearly two decades of work by a team of brilliant scientists sequestered on the rainswept world of Eadu. Led by a reluctant Galen Erso, the Death Star scientists seek to fuse kyber-crystal shards into larger structures and use those crystals to amplify energy into a stable beam powerful enough to destroy an entire planet.
The Clone Wars Legacy story reel from the unfinished Crystal Crisis on Utapau episodes revealed that General Grievous went to Utapau prior to Revenge of the Sith in order to acquire an enormous kyber crystal, which was required to power the Death Star's superlaser.
A hologram from the original Death Star is briefly visible in a scene at the Resistance base in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens and used as a means of comparison with one from the First Order's own superweapon, Starkiller Base.
In the animated series Star Wars Rebels, the two-part episode "Ghost of Geonosis" hinted that the Geonosians were nearly wiped out to extinction out of the Empire's need for secrecy. Saw Gerrera, having been sent to Geonosis to investigate, deduced the Empire possesses a superweapon and resolved to discover the Death Star as depicted in the final season two-parter "In the Name of the Rebellion." Though it was a dead end, finding only scientists being abducted by the Empire, Saw learned the weapon is powered by kyber crystals taken from the Jedha system.
The anthology film Rogue One focuses on a band of Rebels stealing the plans for the first Death Star prior to the events of A New Hope. The Death Star project was overseen by Orson Krennic, the Director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial Military. Under Krennic's supervision, the project was beset by constant delays, and he forcibly recruited weapons designer Galen Erso (the father of Jyn Erso, the movie's main protagonist) to complete the design; nevertheless, it was another fifteen years before the Death Star was operational. The Death Star's primary laser was powered by kyber crystals mined from the desert moon of Jedha, and is first used to destroy Jedha City both as a response to a violent insurgency on the planet, and as a display of the Death Star's operational status to restore the Empire's confidence in the project. Grand Moff Tarkin assumes control over the Death Star while Krennic investigates security breaches in the design project. It is subsequently revealed that Galen discreetly sabotaged the design by building a vulnerability into the reactor. This is the same vulnerability that Luke Skywalker takes advantage of during the events of A New Hope. After the Death Star plans are stolen from the Scarif vault, Tarkin fires the Death Star's superlaser on the base killing Krennic, as well as Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor. Rogue One also reveals that the Death Star's superlaser is powered by multiple reactors, allowing it to vary its destructive power depending on the target. Skeptical of the station's power, Tarkin ordered that it first be tested on Jedha City using a single reactor. Near the end of Rogue One, a second single-reactor test would destroy their installation on Scarif, along with the Rebel strike force who had successfully stolen the station's plans. This is consistent with the canon continuity in Star Wars: A New Hope, since the destruction of the planet Alderaan would be the first time the Death Star fired the superlaser with all reactors employed so Tarkin could declare the battlestation "fully operational".
The 2014 book Star Wars: Tarkin detailed the life of Grand Moff Tarkin, and prominently featured the first Death Star. The theme of the construction of the Death Star is continued in the 2016 book, Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, which tells the story of the development of the Death Star's superweapon by the scientist, Galen Erso and Krennic's deception of him. It also reveals how Poggle worked with Krennic on the Project but then turned on him.
Second Death Star
Return of the Jedi features a second Death Star still under construction as it orbits the forest moon of the planet Endor. Besides being even more massive it also fixed the flaws found in its forebearer, so the Rebel Alliance's only hope is to destroy it prior to its completion. Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader send the Rebels false information that the station's weapons systems are not yet operational in order to lure the Alliance fleet into a trap, resulting in the decisive Battle of Endor. Compared to its predecessor, the second Death Star's superlaser is more advanced as it can be fired every few minutes instead of needing 24 hours to recharge, while improved targeting computers could track smaller targets such as capital ships. The unfinished battle station had been protected by a planetary shield projector deployed on the forest moon of Endor, but this was taken out by a ground assault team led by Han Solo with the help of the native Ewoks. Rebel pilots Wedge Antilles and Lando Calrissian flew into the reactor core, with Antilles in his X-wing first taking out the power regulator with proton torpedoes, and Calrissian in the Millennium Falcon (co-piloted by Nien Nunb) striking the main reactor with concussion missiles, setting off a chain reaction that destroyed the battle station.
The second Death Star is featured in the cover of the book Star Wars: Aftermath (2015), which also features many flashbacks to the destruction of the second Death Star, as well as the events directly after its destruction. One of the main characters in the story personally escaped the explosion of the Death Star. The destruction of the second Death Star was also shown in holograms in the book. The 2015 comic book Star Wars: Shattered Empire also explores the days following the destruction of the second Death Star from the perspective of Poe Dameron's parents, who were pilots during the event. The video game Star Wars: Uprising also takes place during the aftermath of the second Death Star's destruction, and features a hologram of its description on multiple occasions in and out of cutscenes.
The final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker features the wreckage of the Emperor's throne room, leading some to speculate that the Death Star wreckage depicted in trailers for the film is that of the second Death Star. It was soon revealed that an ocean moon called Kef Bir would feature in the film, which IGN interprets as the location of the wreckage.
Similar superweapons of mass destruction
The 2019 comic Star Wars #68 reveals that the Rebels considered creating their own version of a Death Star by luring Star Destroyers to a tectonically unstable planet and setting it off with proton detonators.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens features Starkiller Base, a planet converted into a superweapon built by the First Order. Significantly larger than either the first or second Death Star, and unlike either of those cost-prohibitive space stations, this superweapon cut costs by terraforming an existing planet. The base draws its raw fire power directly from a star via extraction through dark energy called "Quintessence" and turning it into another type of dark energy called "Phantom Energy", but it requires time to draw enough energy—this stored energy is enough to obliterate multiple planets at once, making it a far deadlier superweapon than the Death Star.
In the film, the weapon is used to simultaneously destroy five New Republic planets within the same star system. General Hux gives an incendiary speech while Starkiller Base demonstrates its lethality by obliterating the five planets of the Hosnian Prime system (at that time the location of the New Republic's government, which rotated every few years). After Rey was captured by Kylo Ren, he interrogated her within the base. Han, Chewbacca and Finn approached the base at light-speed because Starkiller's shield kept out anything going under the speed of light. They found Rey and successfully lowered the protective shields, enabling an X-wing assault led by Poe Dameron and Nien Nunb to destroy the superweapon, with Poe firing the crucial, destructive shots. As the Resistance forces flee, the base implodes, forming a star.
The name Starkiller Base pays homage to the early drafts of the original Star Wars film, referring to Luke Skywalker's original surname. During early concept development, artist Doug Chiang envisioned the superweapon's gun as set inside a volcano, which X-wings would have to enter in a maneuver similar to the trench run on the Death Star in the original film.
Both Death Stars and similar superweapons appear throughout the non-canonical Star Wars Legends continuity.
The first Death Star was defended by thousands of turbolasers, ion cannons and laser cannons, plus a complement of seven to nine thousand TIE fighters, along with tens of thousands of support craft. It also had several massive docking bays, including dry docks capable of accommodating Star Destroyers.
The first Death Star's construction is the subject of Michael Reaves and Steve Perry's novel Death Star. In LucasArts's Star Wars: Battlefront II, the player participates in a mission to secure crystals used in the Death Star's superlaser. The first Death Star under construction acts as the final stage in the video game, The Force Unleashed. Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy introduces the Maw Cluster of black holes that protect a laboratory where the Death Star prototype was built (consisting of the superstructure, power core, and superlaser).
National Public Radio's A New Hope adaptation portrays Leia (Ann Sachs) and Bail Organa's (Stephen Elliott) discovery of the Death Star's existence and Leia's mission to steal the space station's schematics. The first level of LucasArts' Dark Forces gives mercenary Kyle Katarn the role of stealing the plans which are subsequently given to Leia, while a mission in Battlefront II tasks the player with acting as a stormtrooper or Darth Vader in an attempt to recover the plans and capture Leia. Steve Perry's novel Shadows of the Empire describes a mission that leads to the Rebels learning of the second Death Star's existence, and that mission is playable in LucasArts' X-Wing Alliance combat flight simulator. Numerous LucasArts titles recreate the movies' attacks on the Death Stars, and the Death Star itself is a controllable weapon for the Empire in the Rebellion and Empire at War strategy game. A prototype version of the Death Star can be found in Kevin J. Anderson's novel Jedi Search (1994).
The first Death Star is depicted in various sources of having a crew of 265,675, as well as 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 30,984 stormtroopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 180,216 pilots and support crew. Its hangars contain assault shuttles, blastboats, Strike cruisers, land vehicles, support ships, and 7,293 TIE fighters. It is also protected by 10,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,600 ion cannons, and at least 768 tractor beam projectors. Various sources state the first Death Star has a diameter of between 140 and 160 kilometers. There is a broader range of figures for the second Death Star's diameter, ranging from 160 to 900 kilometers.
DS-X Prototype Battle Station
In the Legends novels Death Star, Dark Empire II, Jedi Search and Champions of the Force, an experimental Death Star prototype, DS-X (a durasteel frame surrounding a reactor core, superlaser, engines and a control room) was conceived by Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin as a test bed for the first Death Star. It was constructed by Bevel Lemelisk and his engineers at the Empire's secret Maw Installation. The prototype measured 120 kilometers in diameter. Its superlaser was only powerful enough to destroy a planet's core, rendering it an uninhabitable "dead planet". The targeting system on the prototype was never calibrated and the superlaser was inefficient, leaving the weapon's batteries drained. The prototype had no interior except a slave-linked control room, hyperdrive engines and other components; the station operated with skeleton-crew of 75 personnel.
Although George Lucas himself confirmed that the plans featured in Attack of the Clones and the under-construction facility in Revenge of the Sith was indeed the original Death Star, Star Wars: The New Essential Chronology retconned the DS-X prototype into being built alongside the main Death Star.
Death Star III - (Star Tours - The Adventures Continue)
In the Disney attraction Star Tours - The Adventures Continue, guests can travel inside an incomplete Death Star during one of the randomized ride sequences. In the original Star Tours, a Death Star III is seen and destroyed during the ride sequence by the New Republic. Leland Chee originally created the third Death Star to explain why a Death Star is present on the Star Tours ride when both of the stations in the movies were destroyed. The station being built near the Forest Moon of Endor like the second Death Star before .It is similar to an original concept for Return of the Jedi, where two Death Stars would have been built near Had Abbadon (then the Imperial capital world). The Habitation spheres, based on the Imperials' suspicious claims that they were designed strictly for peaceful purposes, were suggested by some fans to have been the origin for the Death Star III. This was later revealed to be the case in Part 2 of the StarWars.com Blog series The Imperial Warlords: Despoilers of an Empire. In the Legends game Tiny Death Star, a random HoloNet entry states that one of the residents of the Death Star is simply staying there until he can afford to stay at the third Death Star.
In the Dark Empire comic series (1991–95), the reborn Emperor Palpatine's flagships Eclipse and Eclipse II Super Star Destroyers or Star Dreadnoughts have a miniaturized version of the Death Star superlaser.
The novel Children of the Jedi involves the return of Eye of Palpatine, a "colossal, asteroid-shaped" super dreadnaught constructed at the behest of Emperor Palpatine during the second year of the Galactic Civil War. The Imperials lost control of the Eye when a Jedi used the Force to hijack the main computer with their spirits.
The Death Star placed ninth in a 2008 20th Century Fox poll of the most popular movie weapons.
It has been referred to outside of the Star Wars context in such examples as:
- AT&T Corporation's logo introduced in 1982 is informally referred to as the "Death Star". Ars Technica referred to "the AT&T Death Star" in an article criticizing a company data policy. Competitor T-Mobile mocked AT&T's "Death Star" logo and "Empire-like reputation" in a press release.
- In Kevin Smith's first feature film, Clerks (1994), one of the main characters points out that many independent contractors would have been killed in the second Death Star's destruction.
- KTCK (SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket) in Dallas were the first to use the term "Death Star" to describe the new mammoth Cowboys Stadium, now AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas. The term has since spread to local media and is generally accepted as a proper nickname for the stadium.
- The Death Star strategy was the name Enron gave to one of their fraudulent business practices for manipulating California's energy market.
In 1981, following the Voyager spacecraft's flight past Saturn, scientists noticed a resemblance between one of the planet's moons, Mimas, and the Death Star. Additionally, a few astronomers sometimes use the term "Death Star" to describe Nemesis, a hypothetical star postulated in 1984 to be responsible for gravitationally forcing comets and asteroids from the Oort cloud toward Earth.
Kenner and AMT created a playset and a model, respectively, of the first Death Star. In 2005 and 2008, Lego released models of Death Star II and Death Star I, respectively. In 1979, Palitoy created a heavy card version of the Death Star as a playset for the vintage range of action figures in the UK, Australia and Canada. Both Death Stars are part of different Micro Machines three-packs. The Death Stars and locations in them are cards in Decipher, Inc.'s and Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars Customizable Card Game and Star Wars Trading Card Game, respectively. Hasbro released a Death Star model that transforms into a Darth Vader mech. Estes Industries released a flying model rocket version.
A Death Star trinket box was also released by Royal Selangor in 2015, in conjunction with the December screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens that year, and in 2016, Plox released the official levitating Death Star Speaker in anticipation of that year's screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
White House petition
In 2012–13, a proposal on the White House's website urging the United States government to build a real Death Star as an economic stimulus and job creation measure gained more than 30,000 signatures, enough to qualify for an official response. The official (tongue-in-cheek) response was released in January 2013: the cost of building a real Death Star has been estimated at $850 quadrillion by the Lehigh University, or about 13,000 times the amount of mineable resources on Earth, while the International Business Times cited a Centives economics blog calculation that, at current rates of steel production, the Death Star would not be ready for more than 833,000 years. The White House response also stated "the Administration does not support blowing up planets," and questioned funding a weapon "with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship" as reasons for denying the petition.
Petition in other countries
The Luxembourgish magician Christian Lavey (born as Christian Kies) submitted a petition for the construction of a Death Star to the Luxemburgish parliament. However, on an interview with a local radio station Lavey admitted that this petition was just a joke and some kind of protest against the space plans of the government.
- The space station is also called "Ultimate Weapon" by the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS), who commissioned the original designs.
- Speculated to be Ilum, as official reference guides state both the planet and Starkiller Base to be 660 kilometres (410 mi) in diameter. Additionally, the video game Jedi: Fallen Order depicts the planet with a giant trench resembling the superweapon's appearance.
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