Everything You Need To Know About The Death Star
An Engineering Feat
Even current Star Wars lore includes a number of so called superweapons, beginning with the ancient conflicts between Jedi and Sith, and ending with Starkiller Base and Final Order’s Star Destroyers. The first ever superweapon to appear in Star Wars and probably the most famous is the First Death Star, also designated DS-1 Orbital Battle Station. Although its time of operation was actually far shorter than that of its construction, it had a lasting impact on the galaxy, far beyond the destruction of Alderaan, or its annihilation by Luke Skywalker. What follows is everything you need to know about one of the Empire’s most terrifying weapon in a nutshell.
Long Time In The Making
The principal idea of a weapon capable of destroying entire planets dates back millennia to the time of the ancient Sith. Thousands of years later, before the outbreak of the Clone Wars, the Geonosians created plans and schematics for what they called the “Ultimate Weapon,” and handed it over to Count Dooku, who in turn showed them to his master, Darth Sidious. The Sith was intrigued, and began to manipulate both the Republic and the Separatists to fund this top-secret project.
However, the Geonosians did not get to finish the plans for the primary weapon of the station. After Palpatine had proclaimed himself Emperor, he split the endeavor into two smaller subprojects: the actual construction of the superstructure including all its interior and machinery, and "Project Celestial Power." The latter was to develop a way to power the superlaser. While the first project was led by Willhuf Tarkin, the second was assigned to Orson Krennic.
Krennic hired the scientist Galen Erso for his project, luring him in by pretending he was working on a way to provide energy to a galaxy that had been devastated after the Clone Wars. When Erso found out what he was really working on, he fled with his family. However, he was found by Krennic years later and forced to return to his work. In the end, Erso found a way to make the superlaser work, but he also incorporated a weak spot into DS1, which would be uncovered by his daughter Jynn and exploited by the Rebel Alliance at the Battle Of Yavin.
Nearly twenty years after construction started, the giant dish of the superlaser was one of the last components of the Death Star to be installed. Shortly after, the weapon was used for the first time against Jedah City. Even at minimal power, it was enough to destroy an eighth of the planet.
When Grand Moff Tarkin, who had taken over control of the Death Star in the meantime, found out that Rebel spies were trying to steal the plans for the superweapon, he ordered the destruction of the Imperial data vault on Scariff, again not using the full power of the laser. The Death Star fired the third and last time on Alderann, this time at its full power, blasting the whole planet into smithereens.
Without any doubt the superleaser was the most impressive part of the Death Star. Powered by a hypermatter reactor at the core of the globe, the resulting reaction was focused through eight giant kyber crystals. The energy was then distributed into eight smaller lasers that were distributed evenly around the giant dish before they were focused into one enormous beam. All 8 firing-chamber array had to be precisely aligned, or the crystals would overheat and send destructive shockwaves back to the station. After one shot, the superlaser took an entire day to recharge. This was reduced to a few minutes with the second Death Star.
The superlaser was by far not the only weapon of DS1. Distributed across its surface were thousands of XX-9 heavy turbolaser batteries, designed to fire on big, less maneuverable capital ships. In order to be able to fight smaller, more agile fighters the station possessed additional 10,000 Super Blaster 920 laser cannons. All in all, there were more than 100,000 heavy laser and quad laser cannons on the Death Star. In addition, there were a number of ion cannons that were intended to disable the electrical systems of ships foolish enough to come into its firing range.
As a more defensive measure, the Death Star included hundreds of tractor beams (most of them located at the equator), shield projectors, and communication arrays, as well as security stations. Also located in the trench in the middle of the Death Star were countless docking bays and hangers, housing around 7,000 TIE fighters. The smaller crafts had to follow special take-off and landing procedures due to the gravity of the enormous station.
Another thing that made the Death Star so menacing was its ability to travel through hyperspace with a class 4 hyperdrive. It was the perfect enforcer of Tarkin’s Rule by Fear. The station could appear at anytime at any place in the galaxy where the Empire saw a threat to its regime.
A City In Space
At its equator the Death Star was 160 km (roughly 100 miles) wide and had a surface area of about 45,000 square kilometers. Much of its innards was used for the reactor, machinery, energy, infrastructure, weaponry and storage. Most of the people lived on the habitable crust that was several kilometers thick.
Between 1.1 to 1.2 million people worked and lived aboard the station. In addition to the Imperial Navy and the Army troops stationed here, countless workers were dedicated to keeping the station operational and secure. Unlike many other facilities of the Empire DS1 actually offered quite some comfort for its inhabitants, with many bars, cantinas, recreation areas and sporting facilities.
Finally, it had an overbridge (located north of the superlaser dish), conference rooms, several hospital wings, and a large detention block, which was intended mainly for interrogating prisoners before they were brought to a prison planetside for further detention or execution.
Despite its dark purpose the Death Star was a masterpiece of engineering. It would have shaped the fate of the galaxy for a long time if not for a certain small thermal exhaust port conceived by Galen Erso.
Written By Gerald Petschk
Syndicated From Culture Slate