- “Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”
- ―Darth Vader
The DS-1 Orbital Battle Station (better known as the Death Star) is a fictional moon-sized space station and superweapon that appears in the Star Wars universe.
Used by the Galactic Empire, this battle station is capable of destroying an entire planet with a single destructive energy beam from its superlaser, bringing great fear to those who would dare oppose the Emperor.
The Death Star's centerpiece was an awesome, planet destroying superlaser. At 120 kilometers in diameter, it was the size of a Class IV moon and was one of the largest starships ever built. Fully half of the battle station's interior was filled by the reactor core, that sublight and hyperdrive systems, and the superlaser housing.
The station had a crew of over 265,000 soldiers. Gunners, ground troops, starship support crew and pilots brought the total on board personal to nearly one million beings. Even more amazingly is that these figures indicated minimum crew standards.
For weaponry, in addition to the superlaser, the Death Star had 15,000 capital ship turbolasers and over 700 tractor beam projectors. These projectors could capture virtually any ship and when working in conjunction with one another, could reel in even an Imperial Star Destroyer. The Death Star also maintained an awesome array of support ships and vehicles, with 7,000 TIE Fighters, four strike cruisers, over 20,000 military and transport vessels and over 11,000 combat vehicles.
Despite all these awesome advantages, simple errors doomed the station. First, the Death Star's defenses were built around the idea of repelling a capital ship attack; starfighters were considered "insignificant" by Imperial military strategists. And when the Alliance mounted its assault over Yavin 4, the Rebels could send only two squadrons each of X-Wing and Y-Wing fighters. Grand Moff Tarkin considered the attack inconsequential. He refused to launch TIE Fighters in defense of the station, and only the TIE Fighters under Lord Vader's direct command were deployed against the Alliance's fighters.
As a result of those errors of arrogance, the mightiest weapon in the history of the galaxy was destroyed by a simple proton torpedo fired down an unshielded exhaust vent. This Achilles' heel allowed the Empire's enemies to detonate the Death Star's power core and win the day.
The Death Star's origins can be traced back to 29 BBY, as a concept made by Raith Siener (founder of Sienar Systems) as the "Expeditionary Battle Planetoid". The plans were fused with the plans for what was codenamed the Ultimate Weapon by Geonosian Industries. Construction began in earnest in 21 BBY. Count Dooku briefly considered halting construction in favor of wielding the Planet Killer instead, but Mace Windu's sabotage ensured the failure of the weapon.
In 19 BBY, Palpatine sent the famed 501st Legion of clone troopers to Mygeeto to collect energy crystals that would power the superlaser. Following the Declaration of the New Order, the Death Star came under Imperial control, relocated to Despayre, and put under the authority of Wilhuff Tarkin. The supply and demand problems were answered by the Empire by the enslavement of non-humans starting with the Wookies during the Sujugation of Kashykk.
In 0 BBY, the station was complete. Well aware of the station, the Rebels commenced Operation: Skyhook to steal the plans for the station. The plans were stored within R2-D2, who went to Tatooine, then the Death Star itself, and, with help from Luke Skywalker and the latter's new friends, finally delivered the plans safely to the hidden Rebel base on Yavin IV.
While attempting to get the location of the Rebel base out of Princess Leia, Wilhuff Tarkin threatened her homeworld of Alderaan with destruction to demonstrate the station's power. Despite giving the base's location as Dantooine (which later turned out to be an abandoned base), Tarkin dismissed Dantooine as being too remote for an effective demonstration, and had the superlaser fired upon Alderaan. Despite meeting the planetary shield, the planet was destroyed with one blast. This event later turned out to be a major embarrassment for the Empire, suffering much backlash and (combined with the dissolution of the Imperial Senate) only bolstering Rebel sentiment.
The station was then taken to the Yavin system, only to be met by a force of thirty-two Rebel fighters (twelve X-Wings, eight Y-Wings, and two A-Wings). Though most of the fighters were shot down by Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker managed to shoot proton torpedoes into an unshielded exhaust port leading directly to the main reactor. Seconds after entering the port, the station exploded, killing everyone onboard including Grand Moff Tarkin. The destruction of the Death Star was a blow the Empire would spend three years recovering from.