The DS-1 Orbital Battle Station, known unofficially but more commonly as the Death Star or Death Star I, was a massive Imperial battlestation/superweapon with a diameter of 160 kilometers designed to enforce law and order throughout the Empire with the threat of planetary destruction.
It started off as the Separatist Ultimate Weapon before becoming the Expeditionary Battle Planetoid Development Initiative after it ceased to be a Separatist project and became an Imperial one in 19 BBY. The Death Star was destroyed by Luke Skywalker during the Battle of Yavin in 0 BBY.
- "Look at the size of that thing!"
- ―Wedge Antilles
The basic structure of the station was a sphere the size of a small moon, with a kilometer-wide trench containing docking bays running around its equator. It was the very incarnation of the Tarkin Doctrine.
The original superstructure planned for the station was 120km in diameter. The 160km diameter of the final design represented a mark II revision of the superstructure. At the time of its making, it was believed that no Death Star battlestation would ever need to be bigger than 500km in diameter. However, some experts believed the concept would necessitate a 900km diameter and the designers of the second Death Star ended up following their advice.
The first Death Star, like its successor, was divided into two hemispheres, each subdivided into 12 bridge-controlled zones. The northern hemisphere held the main armament of the station, a fearsome superlaser. This weapon had the external appearance of a bowl several kilometers wide. When activated, eight separate beams were each activated by a crystal through the Particle accelerator tubes, amplified through rings, and conjoined to form one of eight separate beams that would focus outside the dish, focusing into a point to form a single incredibly powerful superlaser beam. The power settings of the superlaser were adjustable, allowing for the destruction of naval vessels and planets alike. Blasts with the power to destroy naval vessels could be fired roughly once every minute, while planet-destroying blasts could only be fired once per day. This superlaser was powerful enough to destroy even a shielded planet with one shot.
The Death Star was said to comprise eighty-four separate internal levels, stacked south to north. Each level was separated into 257 sub-levels. A nominal number of sub levels were then to be stacked around the surface of the sphere, encompassing the inner stacked levels.
Facilities included parks, shops, and other amenities for the Human crew, as well as numerous maintenance necessities such as trash compactors, like Garbage Compactor 3263827. The entire hull of the planetoid was covered in quadanium steel.
The battlestation also included two massive sublight engines in the midsection, as well as a formidable hyperdrive system. Driven by 123 individual generators tied to one navigational matrix, the Class 4 hyperdrive was fast enough to allow the Death Star to travel thousands of light years from Alderaan to Yavin IV in only a few hours. All engineers working near the highly radioactive engines were forced to wear radiation suits in order to keep harmful exposure to a minimum. Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin once likened walking inside the Death Star's interior as walking inside the Caves of Corips, but with illuminated tubing and plastisteel replacing the natural surroundings.
Near the northern pole, a hundred meter tower was constructed and shielded to near impenetrability for the Emperor to use as personal quarters while on board. Operational command of the space station took place from the overbridge, which included the conference room.
At any given time, around 1.7 million Imperial personnel (excluding droids) were aboard the battlestation.
The Death Star's design included a small but significant flaw: an exposed thermal exhaust port. Although the exhaust port was eventually installed as per the original design plan, at one point in the construction process it was identified as unnecessary. The architect responsible for overseeing the area asked the Wookiee overseeing construction of the area to not build the port, he insisted on getting the amendment to the plans in writing. Before the architect had a chance to submit such an amendment, the Wookiee became ill and was confined to a medcenter, and his replacement built the port as specified in the plans. The port was only two meters wide, approximately the size of a womp rat, and lay at the end of a large trench in the hull of the battle station, and was ray shielded against energy weapons such as laser cannons.
Creation of the "Battle Planetoid" concept
The concept for the Death Star could be found in it's precursor, the "Expeditionary Battle Planetoid". The concept came about in 29 BBY, around the time of the Second Battle of Zonama Sekot, and the man who came up with the idea for it was Raith Sienar. Raith made concept designs of the Battle Planetoid, it had a main sphere and two smaller spheres, the smaller spheres were connected to the main sphere by poles, it used massive Turbolasers and was powered by an internal plasma implosion core more than a kilometer wide. Unlike it's Death Star descendant it lacked a Superlaser, as it was designed for space combat.
Raith showed the designs to the commander of the Republic Outland Regions Security Force, Wilhuff Tarkin. Wilhuff was interested in the concept, he later stabbed Raith in the back when he showed the concept to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and claimed that he invented it, however at this time Raith had lost interest in the concept so didn't care that Wilhuff had stabbed him in the back over the concept.
The initial technical design of the Death Star, known at the time as the Ultimate Weapon, was created by the Geonosian Industries and called for a spheroid battle station capable of destroying Galactic Republic forces and planets under their control.
In 22 BBY, Poggle the Lesser, leader of the Geonosians, returned the top-secret design to Count Dooku to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Jedi during the Battle of Geonosis. Dooku took the designs back to Coruscant and gave them to Darth Sidious, his dark master. These plans would later be fused with Wilhuff Tarkin and Raith Sienar's vision of an Expeditionary Battle Planetoid.
In 21 BBY, early in the Clone Wars, Sidious ordered Geonosian builders to begin construction on the station over their own homeworld. Hundreds of thousands of workers were busy building the station throughout the war. Around five months after the Battle of Geonosis, Dooku briefly considered halting production of the Weapon in favor of the Planet Killer, but changed his mind after the demonstration failed, thanks to sabotage by Mace Windu. In 20 BBY, 17 months after the start of the war, Geonosian technicians on Zaadja were observed working on the Weapon's design.
In 19 BBY, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine sent the 501st Legion on a mission to Mygeeto where they were to collect an energy sample that would be used in the station's superlaser of the newly formed Galactic Empire. During the last few weeks of the war, the Separatist Council debated on ways to prolong the war, to allow their secret weapon time to be finished.
- "I guess this explains what the Empire wants with all those Wookiee slaves, droids alone couldn’t build that monster. Not in a thousand years. Nor could the scum you’d usually find in an Imperial prison."
- ―Galen Marek upon seeing the Death Star for the first time
Following the death of the Separatist Council and the end of the Clone Wars in 19 BBY, a majority of the Separatist holdings were turned over to the newly established Galactic Empire, including the unfinished battlestation. Construction was renewed under Imperial supervision and moved to Despayre in order to secure Palpatine's newly-formed absolute power. Wilhuff Tarkin was appointed to mastermind the secret development project. Tarkin's creative work and thought had resulted in the realization of the Death Star as the Empire's ultimate weapon.
To help build the superweapon and curry the Emperor's favor, Tarkin had Darth Vader lead an Imperial invasion of Kashyyyk, where they enslaved Wookiees for labor. These Wookiees would later be transported to Despayre, the Death Star's construction site. Much of the needed funding came from appropriated funds originally earmarked for the Department of System Exploration and the Department of Public Works.
However, the project nearly ended before it began. Although much of the technology of the Death Star was impressive, actually building it proved to be more difficult than anyone imagined. The project was dragged out over a nineteen year time period as labor union disputes along with the supply and design problems slowed the construction. Efforts were not helped by repeated—albeit usually unsuccessful—sabotage efforts. Actual effective work on the station took less than two years, and involved resources from every corner of the Empire being funneled to complete the project.
Of particular concern was the technology required to create the massive superlaser, the very heart of the weapon. To this end, Tarkin brought together some of the most brilliant minds of the galaxy (including Tol Sivron, Qwi Xux, and Bevel Lemelisk) and build a proof-of-concept model at Maw Installation. This model would eventually become known as the Death Star prototype.
It is uncertain exactly when the term "Death Star" came into use in connection with the project. The earliest known reference to the name Death Star as a codename for the project was in a memorandum c. 5 BBY written by Imperial advisor Ars Dangor, which formally placed Wilhuff Tarkin in overall command of the project. Once the Imperial Ministry of Propaganda began using the name Death Star, the name stuck.
Even before the Death Star became fully operational, its detention blocks began to fill with detainees. Political troublemakers, Rebel insurgents (who were beginning to organize), dangerous pirate forces, and even some survivors of the Royal Naboo Security Forces who had boldly tried to stop their Queen's assassination, as well as myriad other enemies of the Empire, were made to quietly "disappear" from public view within the enormous prisons of the incomplete battle station.
In the year 2 BBY, four individuals who would later become leaders of the Rebel Alliance were transferred to the Death Star: the Senators Bail Organa, Garm Bel Iblis, and Mon Mothma, along with a former Jedi General named Rahm Kota. Palpatine had the four sent to the battle station following their capture on Corellia, planning to have them interrogated and tortured, followed by public execution. This plan was foiled by the former apprentice of Darth Vader, Galen Marek. Galen arrived and attempted to rescue the rebels, and in the end apparently sacrificed himself so the four leaders could escape.
The stormtroopers of the 501st Legion were among those assigned to protect the Death Star's interior. They were forced to put down a prison break that had somehow occurred within the station, led by a Jedi Padawan inmate. A number of prisoners were able to obtain a partial technical readout of the battlestation, which were beamed to a Rebel cell on Polis Massa. Shortly after this embarrassing debacle, the 501st were reassigned and moved off the station.
The missing plans
The history regarding the acquisition of the plans by the Rebel Alliance is a complex and convoluted one. Although three separate sets of schematics were stolen, only combined could they provide a thorough analysis of the space station's weaknesses.
Learning the truth
In 0 BBY, Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, perhaps while the Alliance Intelligence investigated the existence of a superweapon, was informed about it by a soldier she rescued on Ralltiir. The existence was justified by Intelligence on AX-235. Rianna Saren's report on the Destruction of Despayre confirmed the power of the battlestation's superlaser.
Around the same time, Rebel leader Garm Bel Iblis, with help from professional thief Moranda Savich, acquired a series of heavily encrypted datacards from an Imperial defector on Darkknell. It was only after sending these to the Alliance that the resistance discovered the exact purpose of Governor Tarkin's "pet project": to inspire fear through the destruction of worlds.
The combining of schematics
Following the Death Star Uprising, the aforementioned set of partial schematics was beamed to the Rebel base on Polis Massa. While it wasn't long before the Fighting 501st executed a swift raid on the compound, Bothan spies managed to transmit this first set off-base, presumably to their other asteroid base, AX-235. With one piece of the puzzle secure, the Alliance scrambled to secure more sets of plans, sets which would complete the picture.
It was at this time that a rumored Alliance cell on Kalakar Six had acquired the plans, and Palpatine and Vader investigated the matter personally. In the end, the effort was deemed a wild bantha chase, as the planet was devoid of any Rebel sympathizers at all; in truth, the mission was most likely a ruse orchestrated by the Emperor to test his pupil's worth.
Meanwhile, real efforts to secure the Death Star plans were underway. Rebel agent Kyle Katarn, a former Imperial Academy graduate, had used his combination of stealth and brute force to wrest a supplemental set of plans from the Empire during the Battle of Danuta. With two smaller examples of the schematics, the Rebels set about acquiring the last, largest set of plans.
Through the actions of operative Bria Tharen and Red Hand Squadron, the Alliance engaged the enemy on the planet Toprawa. Operation: Skyhook, as it was called, resulted in one of the biggest victories to date for the Rebels: the final set of plans would at last be in their control.
On Toprawa, operative Havet Storm transmitted the plans, as well as the plans for the superlaser, to Tantive IV, a consular ship in orbit. With these two additional bits in tow, the starship fled the system and intercepted the readouts from Katarn and AX-235, with Princess Leia herself spearheading the entire operation. By taking advantage of her diplomatic immunity, Leia hoped to seek out her father's friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and from there extrapolate a plan to analyze the schematics for a weakness in the superweapon's defenses.
But fate would take a different turn.
The events above and on Tatooine
When Darth Vader and the 501st led a raid aboard Tantive IV, no plans were to be found. At the last moment, Leia, realizing the importance of the plans' survival, placed them inside astromech droid R2-D2 who, with his companion C-3PO, made his way down to the surface of Tatooine. After being purchased by moisture farmer Owen Lars from some scavenging Jawas, the plucky little astro-droid knew he was getting close to finding Kenobi. Accompanied by Owen's step-nephew, Luke Skywalker, R2 found who he was looking for.
The Destruction of Alderaan
- "You may fire when ready."
- ―Grand Moff Tarkin
After being captured by Lord Vader, Princess Leia was charged with espionage and treason and taken to the Death Star for interrogation, Vader's obsessive quest for the Rebellion's hidden base of operations being his primary focus. Proving to be substantially resistant to Vader's methods of torture, Governor Tarkin ordered her to be brought to his command center. Threatening Leia with the destruction of her homeworld, Alderaan, Leia deliberately misled Tarkin, saying that the Rebel base was on the remote planet of Dantooine. However, Tarkin, stating that Dantooine was "too remote for an effective demonstration," ordered the Destruction of Alderaan while Leia watched helplessly. Billions were killed; the overall effect of the operation was to spread the message of fear the Empire needed to keep all planetary systems under control.
Battle of Yavin
- "That's no moon. It's a space station."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi, upon seeing the Death Star for the first time.
Luke, Obi-Wan, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2, onboard the Millennium Falcon, were captured in a tractor beam after coming out of hyperspace near the remains of Alderaan and drawn onto the Death Star. They hid in several secret compartments in the ship while stormtroopers searched it, and then headed up to the control room. Obi-Wan devised a plan to free the ship by turning off a tractor beam projector.
After learning that the Princess was onboard, Luke, Chewie, and Han headed to her cell block. They managed to free her despite being attacked by stormtroopers. They fled by climbing into a garbage chute, and despite being nearly crushed as the walls compacted, R2 shut them down, and they escaped. Heading back to the Falcon, they spotted a company of stormtroopers. The troopers were distracted by the battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader, allowing them to make it to the ship and take off, headed for Yavin IV.
There, R2-D2 uploaded the data tapes and Alliance tactician Jan Dodonna found a weakness in the station: an unshielded thermal exhaust port that, if fired upon with a proton torpedo, would set off a chain reaction and annihilate the battlestation.
The ensuing Battle of Yavin destroyed the Death Star, just as it was positioned to destroy the newly discovered Rebel Base on Yavin's fourth moon. The Death Star was destroyed by Luke Skywalker in the trench run, who, with the help of the Force, successfully fired two proton torpedoes into the exhaust shaft that led directly into the Death Star's main reactor. Yavin 4 would have been destroyed by the Death Star seconds earlier had it not been for the hesitations of Master Chief Gunnery Officer Tenn Graneet, who delayed the firing because of his regrets for destroying Alderaan even though he was loyal to the Empire. He told his crew to "Stand by," unknowingly buying the Rebel Alliance the time to successfully destroy the battlestation. Ironically, shortly before Luke Skywalker fired the proton torpedoes into the thermal exhaust port, Palpatine had ordered for the creation of a second Death Star.
The reactor, destroying the battlestation and killing everyone still on board, including Grand Moff Tarkin. It would prove a decisive moment for the Rebellion, and gave young Skywalker his first spot in galactic history. Even though the Empire remained the most prominent military power in the galaxy, this major Alliance victory gained credibility and support for their movement. In the months following the battle, thousands of star systems joined the Alliance, leading to the escalation of the Galactic Civil War.
Although the destruction of the Death Star was primarily an Alliance victory, it also acted as a blessing in disguise for the Empire, in particular the Imperial Navy. Because of its development diverting untold amounts of credits and talent from the Navy, other development projects, including those directly related to the creation of a new class of Star Dreadnoughts that would act as a new pinnacle of capital ship power, had to experience a lot of delays. As a result of the Death Star's destruction, the project in question took on a newfound importance to the Empire.
Soon after the destruction of the giant battle station, salvaging companies and other organizations such as the Ugors and the Ni'lyahin Smugglers arrived at Yavin IV and carted off large chunks of debris. It didn't take long before the Empire stepped in and stopped all further theft by unauthorized agencies.
The Empire set up a an Imperial Salvage Station in orbit around Yavin IV to collect the floating remains of the destroyed Death Star. The salvage team aboard the station was led by Major Reskik of the Imperial Security Bureau. The salvage teams consisted of civilian engineers sent by the major defense contractors that had provided the primary system designs for the Death Star project. Additional zero-G work crews were provided by the Empire.
Countless pieces of debris rained down on the jungle moon. Many left scorched craters behind and set the jungles on fire. Some pieces remained largely intact. After the Alliance had left Yavin 4, many salvage teams started to comb the jungles to recover pieces of Death Star technology. Many independent salvagers like Nagem Dr'Lar sold the debris to the Empire. But other organizations interested in the Empire's technology also sent their own teams to the remote moon. The Hutt Expeditionary Force led by Osae Meilea tried to recover debris for the Hutt crimelords. Even the Black Sun crime cartel tried to get their hands on pieces of the destroyed station.
A year after the Death Star's destruction, some spacers had a piece of wreckage from the battlestation.
Tyber Zann, Crime Lord of the Zann Consortium, was interested in some of the Death Star's debris since it contained information about the Aggressor-class Star Destroyer and the Eclipse-class Super Star Destroyer.
Behind the scenes
The West End Games RPG claimed that the first Death Star had a diameter of 120 kilometers.
The fact book Star Wars: Incredible Cross-Sections and detailed scaling of the station in the film showed that the Death Star actually was 160 kilometers in diameter. However, according to statements by Grant McCune, Chief Model Maker for the movie  the scale used for the Death Star in the film was 1:180,000. The Death Star model was 120 centimeters in diameter which indicates that the Death Star was intended to be 216 kilometers in diameter.
In the early production of the original movie, the hollow dish was designed to be on the equator, but then it was decided to be on the "northern" hemisphere. However, this old design can still be seen in the grid plan animations seen in the movie. This is because the animation was created before the prop designers decided to change it, therefore leaving a blooper. The explanation that the plans represent an earlier version is invalid, since the original plan in Attack of the Clones shows the "later" form.
In the Revenge of the Sith DVD commentary, Lucas made an off-hand comment that the Death Star seen at the end was the first Death Star. He explained this was due to "union disputes and supply problems." (Intriguingly, the lead characters in Kevin Smith's film Clerks speculate at some length about whether the Imperial workers were unionized or subcontractors. This may or may not be an in-joke by Lucas.) This has been conflicted by other sources in the Star Wars canon, including Jedi Search and Champions of the Force. These sources explain that what is seen in Revenge of the Sith is a prototype Death Star to the one in A New Hope. This was retconned in The New Essential Chronology, where it is stated that the latter was a testbed prototype for the superlaser to be installed on the former. However, the Death Star shown at the end of Revenge of the Sith is in fact the first Death Star.
A full-length novel, written by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry, was released in October 2007, and completely explains the events in and around the Death Star, during its construction, deployment, and eventual destruction.
In many video games, particularly the Rogue Squadron trilogy, the player has to avoid many obstacles and make several turns when flying in the Death Star's trench run. The schematics/layout of the Death Star show no objects or turns in the trench, and the appearance of the trench in video games is deemed non-canon. For the first game, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, released in 1998, the Battle of Yavin is a bonus mission, unlocked by achieving all gold medals in the campaign or via cheat codes. The Battle of Yavin in the sequel, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, is the game's first campaign mission and thus part of the game's canon storyline.
1993's Star Wars: Rebel Assault put players in the role of Rookie One, who destroys the Death Star in place of Luke Skywalker. This article follows the sequence of events shown in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
The Death Star is mentioned in the 2001 video game Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds during the campaign, which was later included in the game's 2002 expansion pack, Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds: Clone Campaigns. Players can also summon a Death Star to use during campaign missions and multiplayer games with the cheat code "That's no moon."
According to Ryszard Gold, to build an actual basic Death Star, it would cost $15.6 septillion dollars, based on current materials and space transport on Earth. This also factored in the cost of material, air and shipping and handling.
In the non-canon comic Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope, the attack on the battlestation fails, and the Empire manages to drive away the Rebel forces. Five years later, the Death Star is renamed the "Justice Star" to mark the fifth anniversary of the Rebels' defeat and becomes a mobile seat of government for the newly-restored Imperial Senate.
The Justice Star traveled from one system to the next, effectively replacing Coruscant as the center of the Empire. In an impressive display of symbolism, the Justice Star was stationed in front of Coruscant's sun, to eclipse it and thus be seen as a shining symbol of a new source of light for the galaxy.
This symbol was short-lived, however, as Yoda and R2-D2 commandeered the Justice Star, and used it to attack the Imperial Fleet. Once the fleet was destroyed, they sent the battle station crashing into Coruscant's surface, killing Emperor Palpatine and destroying the massive superweapon.
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