Star Wars seems to have a fascination with Death Stars. The very first Star Wars movie was about the destruction of the first Death Star, then a second Death Star shows up in Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens has its own planet destroying superweapon, and now Rogue One brings us the 4th movie about a Death Star, and the 7th movie to reference it.
It makes sense, though. The Death Star was a pretty big deal. It was ideally the final piece of Palpatine’s plan to consolidate power under himself, and it would have worked had it not been for those meddling kids!
There’s a lot to learn about the Death Star from simply watching Star Wars, but there’s more to the Death Star than just what’s in the movie. Find out what else there is to know with 15 Things You Need To Know About The Death Star.
15. The Plans Originally Came From The Separatists
The Death Star has always been a symbol of the might and power of the Empire. After all, fans were introduced to it as a tool of the Empire during the very first Star Wars movie in 1977. Among the many things revealed by the prequels, it’s shown that the plans for the Death Star originated with the Separatist Alliance. It’s not a major plot point, but a hologram of the Death Star can be seen in the conference room on Geonosis, and Count Dooku takes the plans with him when he flees.
Dooku, of course, takes the plans to Palpatine, but it’s more than likely the dark lord already knew about them, since he was guiding the Separatists as his alter ego, Darth Sidious. More likely than not, he actually commissioned the Separatists to design the plans in the first place. Considering the Confederacy was led by various trade guilds, and the Separatists probably had the better design and manufacturing resources (their armies were all droids), taking advantage of those resources to design his superweapon fits right in line with the rest of Palpatine’s schemes.
14. Construction started during Clone Wars
Taking even more of the responsibility for the Death Star out of the hands of the Empire, it turns out construction on the project actually began in secret during the Clone Wars under the supervision of the Republic, as evidenced by one of the last shots in Revenge of the Sith. The Empire did quite a bit of work on it as well, obviously, because it inherited the project when Palpatine reformed the Republic into the Galactic Empire.
As revealed in the Rogue One prequel novel, Catalyst, even the Republic engineers planning the construction efforts aren’t sure where the plans came from. The plans mysteriously came into Republic hands after the Battle of Geonosis seen in Attack of the Clones, but the details aren’t clear. Obviously it was Palpatine’s doing, and he just shifted the plans from one hand to the other so he could ensure the survival of his pet project.
13. The Superlaser wasn’t operational until A New Hope
Some fans were initially outraged over the fact that much of the Death Star’s construction is underway by the end of Revenge of the Sith. It’s regularly pointed at as a continuity issue, because A New Hope, which takes place 18 years later, shows the Death Star’s completion. The argument is that there’s no way it took almost two decades when so much was already done at the end of Episode III.
While it’s true that most of the stations construction was completed well before the events of A New Hope, the station was still not operational until the completion of the superlaser, which does happen much closer to A New Hope. The technical ability to build a massive space station was nothing special, but a weapon that’s powerful enough to destroy entire planets was a new technology, involving years of research and design – an initiative that took far longer. Considering the superlaser was the main attraction, it’s fair to say the Death Star wasn’t complete until it became operational between Rogue One and A New Hope.
12. Construction Started In Orbit Over Geonosis
When Star Wars fans were first introduced to the Death Star in A New Hope, the giant space station didn’t appear to orbit any particular planetary home. So far as the movie shows, the Death Star was simply floating in deep space whenever it wasn’t blowing up Alderaan or attacking Yavin IV, unlike how the Death Star II in Return of the Jedi sat near Endor. Rogue One shows that the first Death Star spends some time over Scarif and Jedha, but none of those places are its original home.
Death Star construction initially began in orbit over Geonosis. After the Republic ousted the separatists and seized the droid foundries during the second battle of Geonosis, the facilities were all converted and retooled for production of various parts of the the massive space station’s superstructure and other various components, mining asteroids that make up the planet’s rings for the raw materials used in production.
11. Geonosians Were Used as Slaves
It’s been well documented that the Empire regularly used slave labor to support its massive infrastructure and build its war machine. This slave population was mostly comprised of alien species, most notably the Wookiees, but it appears that practice may have even been at play when the Death Star’s construction first began under the Galactic Republic, long before it was reformed into the Galactic Empire by Palpatine.
At first, the Republic partnered with Geonosian Archduke Poggle the Lesser to coordinate the use of Geonosian labor and resources in building large sections of the space station, making the Death Star as much a product of Geonosis as any of the battle droids it once produced. After Poggle ended up attempting to double cross the Republic, he was placed into captivity and the Drones fell under the Republic’s control, making them some of the first slaves of what would eventually become the Galactic Empire.
10. The Project Construction Was Initially Overseen by Orsen Krennic
Orsen Krennic began his career as an architect working in the Republic’s Corps of Engineers, designing the structure and layout of many different government buildings on Coruscant over his tenure. His keen ability to read people and exploit opportunities allowed him to eventually make his way into the Republic’s secret Special Weapons Group. Seeing the Death Star as a major opportunity to draw more attention to himself and continue to climb the political ladder, he ensured he was placed in charge of the station’s construction efforts.
It was Krennic that coordinated to have the construction occur in orbit over Geonosis and use Genosian Drones to build the station. His golden boy status wouldn’t last, though, as repeated delays in the development of the station’s superlaser eventually land him in hot water. To address the issue, the Empire had Grand Moff Tarkin (a rival of Krennic’s) join the project to supervise the efforts to completion.
9. It Was More Massive Than You Think
It’s really hard to conceptualize the full size of the Death Star with only the context of the small area explored in A New Hope, but the fact that its first sighting incited a brief debate as to whether or not it was a moon or a space station should be telling. This is a man-made object that gets compared to a moon, that makes it at least as big as the former planet Pluto (RIP). It even had its own gravitational pull!
With 357 internal levels and a occupancy potential of up to 2 million, the original Death Star had a diameter of 120 kilometers across, giving it a total surface area larger than that of the state of Maryland. There are a couple shots in A New Hope that show a Star Destroyer approaching the Death Star, but Rogue One truly demonstrates this scale when it shows a fleet of the massive starships dwarfed by just the Death Star’s superlaser dish.
8. The Death Star Wasn’t Just A Military Installation
The Death Star is obviously primarily a military installation. From its conception it was a superweapon intended to inflict fear upon its enemies and it’s biggest feature is a giant planet destroying superlaser, but the station isn’t exclusively a weapon – even if it is named “Death Star”. There’s a lot more to the planet annihilating space station of destruction than meets the eye.
The Death Star was designed to work as a city – or a even a small planet – unto itself. All the soldiers stationed there needed ways to spend downtime, meaning non-military staff to run cantinas and restaurants, entertainment, and other amenities. Then of course the non-military staff need their own housing and amenities. The ultimate purpose of the battlestation remained military, but with a population that represented a mix of pilots, stormtroopers, officers, scientists, and a variety of other occupations, the Death Star staff were intended to accomplish much more diverse tasks than the staff of a strict military installation or Star Destroyer.
7. The Thermal Exhaust Port Wasn’t an Oversight
For how immense and powerful the Death Star was, the idea that it would be vulnerable to destruction because of an insignificant design feature such as a thermal exhaust port has been the subject of many jokes over the years, suggesting the empire was incompetent, or even resulting in the creation of several fan theories to explain this Imperial “oversight,” but there was nothing wrong with the existence of the thermal exhaust port – the Rebels just pulled off a miracle.
The Death Star generates massive amounts of heat due to the giant reactors that power the station. Thermal exhaust ports are very necessary. One end of such a port needs to reach the main reactor, and the other needs to go out into space. This is entirely normal. What isn’t normal is the Rebels’ decision to attack the station with just a few fighters. The Death Star is armed to the teeth with turbolasers, but those are geared toward defense against larger fleets of capital ships. Its defense against small fighters is supposed to come from its TIE fighter contingents.
Since the Rebel attack in A New Hope was so small, only a few TIEs were deployed, but little did they know that Luke Skywalker would evade their defenses to land a proton torpedo in the two meter wide exhaust port opening – a shot even Wedge Antilles had declared impossible. There’s no way the Empire could have seen that coming.
6. A Ping-Pong Table Was Used To Film the Assault
Star Wars has always been famous for its revolutionary – and often unconventional – special effects, especially the practical effects in the original trilogy. In fact, Lucasfilm has sought a return to that more practical approach to effects in both The Force Awakens and Rogue One, even making a point to mention it in some marketing.
One of the more creative practical effects in the filming of a A New Hope was the way they created the surface of the Death Star during the final assault. While the wider shots and the approach of the Falcon were all constructed using miniatures and matte paintings, the trench run was accomplished by building the surface of the Death Star on 6 ping pong tables and zooming a camera across the surface as pyrotechnics explode. It might sound a little low tech for today’s blockbusters, but it sure got the job done in 1977!
5. The Rebels Were Painted As Terrorists For The Death Star’s Destruction
In A New Hope, we see the Death Star destroy Alderaan and attempt to destroy Yavin IV. When the heroes are aboard, it appears to be full of malicious Imperial officers, soldiers, and pilots, but the population of the space station also houses Imperial non-military, such as construction workers and scientist, in addition to a sizable prisoner population.
With over two million casualties in the Death Star’s destruction, including many non-military, it wasn’t hard for the Empire to declare the attack an act of terror on the part of the Rebellion. Many of the stations casualties had friends family members that were Imperial citizens, and the Death Star’s destruction served as a great piece of propaganda to aid in turning public sentiment against the Rebel Alliance. Not all Imperial officers had evil intent, many just believed they were fighting to protect the galaxy from the terrorist tactics of the Rebel Alliance.
4. Kyber Crystals
The Death Star’s powerful planet destroying superlaser bears a big similarity to lightsabers in that it uses an array of kyber crystals to concentrate its massive superlaser. The use of kyber crystals is a major factor in the reason the station experienced so many delays in becoming operational, because kyber crystals had never been widely available to study since the Jedi sought to control the available supply.
With the fall of the Jedi Order, kyber crystals became much more readily available to the Empire. Many of them were harvested from the lightsabers of fallen Jedi, but more crystals, especially the massive ones used by the Death Star, were mined from planets like Ilum – which the Empire left in ruins after stripping the planet clean of its essential resources.
The kyber crystals produce a green beam from the Death Star’s superlaser, even though Sith lightsabers usually cause the crystals to “bleed” and produce a red beam. This is because lightsaber construction depends on the use of the Force, which is when the Sith bleed the crystal, whereas the Death Star was constructed by Imperial crews, leaving the crystal in a more natural state.
3. Galen Erso Accidentally Designed the Superlaser
The Empire’s knowledge of the kyber crystals was not easily earned. Before the fall of the Jedi, Galen Erso was one of the few people in the galaxy with any scientific knowledge of the crystals. He had been studying them for some time, and even attempted to create synthetic crystals, since the Jedi made acquisition of the gems fairly difficult.
Orsen Krennic knew Galen was the key to getting the superlaser constructed, but Galen was a pacifist and insisted on staying completely out of research and design for anything that promoted war or destruction, so he had to be fooled into thinking he was working on project “Celestial Power” – an initiative to create a large supply of renewable energy. Little to his knowledge, Krennic had other scientists piggy backing on his work to design the superlaser. Once Galen realized what was going on, he fled into hiding, resulting in major setbacks for the Empire.
2. It Was Likely Inspired by Sith Superweapons
The fact that the Death Star uses similar technology to lightsabers likely isn’t a coincidence. Emperor Palpatine had a habit of setting up research stations across the galaxy and collecting ancient Sith artifacts, and the Sith had a history of creating devastating superweapons, dating back to the Jedi Sith War during the reign of the Old Republic.
Whether or not the Death Star was directly inspired by a specific Sith superweapon has yet to be explained, but season 2 of Star Wars Rebels reveals a Sith temple on the planet Malachor that doubles as a superweapon, firing a massive beam into the sky. If the Sith knew how to create weapons of that magnitude, then it wouldn’t be a surprise to discover that they may have also designed, and possibly built, mobile battlestations with similar technology, possibly serving as inspiration for Darth Sidious to build the Death Star (both of them).
1. The Death Star Was Top Secret Even Within The Empire
With how big the Death Star is and how expensive the construction was, it may not have been the easiest thing to hide, but the Empire kept its existence under wraps for years, even insulating many top ranking Imperials from knowledge of the station, only allowing a small group of officers, such as Orsen Krennic and Wilhuff Tarkin, to be involved in the Death Star’s creation.
The Death Star wasn’t supposed to stay a secret forever, though. After its grand appearance with the destruction of Alderaan, the intent was for the Death Star’s mere existence to encourage compliance in the absence of the recently dissolved Imperial Senate. As Tarkin said “Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.” That plan would never come to fruition since it was quickly destroyed by the Rebellion, but it’s not hard to imagine a local government stepping in line the moment the Death Star entered its system after what happened to Alderaan.
What’s your favorite Death Star trivia? Are you hoping to see anything new in Rogue One? Let us hear about it in the comments!
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