The Deathstar thread

I decided that Sundays movie night would feature the trilogy. So some questions have come to mind that have probably been already asked, but I figure a revisit would not be remiss.

First

I have to wonder, should that torpedo that luke fired have destroyed the death star 1 outright. I get that it was supposed to start a chain reaction that would destroy the station, and yet I’m a bit skeptical that what ever that torpedo hit, would not automatically scram the reactors and at most require a few months in the repair yard.

Second

Empire strikes back , has the rebellion on the run and the time line is within months of the Death Star 1 being destroyed. Yet return of the Jedi looks to be within months of hoth being over run, judging by the millenium falcon leaving for tantooine to rescue Han Solo.

With that in mind, the time line for Death Star 2 looks heavily accelerated compared to the construction time for the first. While its only half finished admittedly, I am more used to a ten or more year construction cycle for the stations. Am I basically complaining too much that basically George went back to the well ?

Third

Its pretty much stated in the first movie , that the stations defenses are primarily attuned for a capital ship assault, snub fighters are concidered fleas due to the lack of hitting power. Yet it seems the Death Star class, seems to have its biggest weakness around the big gun. I was reminded of that Executor class star destroyer that augered into the Death Star. Given the amount of kinetic energy that it had to have released, the second Death Star was probably mission killed , had Wedge and Lando not shot up the main power core.

Had the rebs thought to accelerate a Mon Calmari frigate to high sublight speed and attempt a C-frac strike on the Death Star, particularly around the gun/engine, by physically ramming the Death Star, might have been a better option.

Commence Primary Ignition

Declan

The stolen plans indicated that there was no way to stop the reaction. It was an unlikely shot and since this was a government job, the contractors probably cut corners.

Did they ever say “nuclear reactor” or “fission reactor”? For all we know it was a fusion reactor, or an matter/antimatter annihilation reactor, or something even less likely.

How do we know its half finished? It could just be the reactor, the big gun, and part of the outer shell. The cell blocks and garbage mashers were nowhere near ready.

If you’ve got hyperspace engines that get you to many multiples of light speed, there’s no reason for sublight engines powerful enough to get you to a significant fraction of light speed. They could have fuel issues, or max acceleration issues, etc.

The Star Wars wiki calls it a “hypermatter” reactor. Which explains everything.

I don’t believe that the power plant was described in either movie, which was fine as it really did not add anything to the viewing experience to get an info dump as to how it worked, it just did.

Just that looking back on it, to me it sorta stands out from an adult point of view. Pretty much the same as that OSHA thread a while ago.

Half finished may have been charitable, but if that amount was done in a short time frame, then it was at least a year from completion. The station was being held up by labor delays, as in lack of labor.

And yet in the first movie , Han admonishes Luke regarding hyperdrive co-ordinates for making sure you dont run into anything hard. I cant see why this could not be done on purpose.

Declan

Where is it stated that the Empire was only building one Death Star at a time? Maybe the second one was already under construction when the first was destroyed. It makes sense. The R&D costs are what really kill you on a heavily integrated weapons system like that. You want to spread the development budget over as large a production run as possible to bring the per-unit costs down.

In the movies prior to Return, nope never mentioned at all. The extended universe has some stuff, but I really don’t want to involve matters outside the films. If what you say is true, which I know it is in real life, then there is at least a third Death Star, if George ever decides to make the next part of the series.

Declan

Thinking about it for a minute, I came up with what is the apparently official fanwank: powering something like the Death Star and its main weapon would require enormous amounts of energy, which can only be generated by some exotic technobabbly form of advanced phlebotinum (“hypermatter”) which is, alas, inherently somewhat unstable and prone to really big explosions. Kinda like trying to develop non-flammable jet fuel–you can nitrogen-inert the empty fuel tanks and take other safety precautions, but at the end of the day, if the stuff doesn’t catch fire, it just won’t work as a fuel for jet engines.

I have long thought that even without the unshielded exhaust vent leading directly to the highly explosive hypermatter reactor, the Rebels could have sent in snub fighers equipped with nukes (or whatever the Star Wars universe equivalent of nukes is). Sure, it would take a hell of a nuke to physically blow apart something as big as the Death Star, but you wouldn’t actually need to blow it completely apart. Instead of just flying around doing machine-gun-style strafing runs against various random things on the Death Star’s surface, you could have snub fighters launching megaton-class bombs or cruise missiles against the main superlaser dish, especially the emission points. Presumably that would screw things up pretty good, and at least prevent the Death Star from firing off its main weapon until repairs could be made, giving you a fighting chance to evacuate your planetary base.

Really, overlooking the famous exhaust vent was perhaps a forgivable error, but the Empire should have invested in better shields for the original Death Star. The Death Star II did not appear to have such strangely porous shields; until the (fortunately external) shield generator was destroyed, the Rebels were getting nowhere.

The original vent was shielded, ray shielded but it was there. That required that the x-wings and y-wings come in along this really windy trench, and launch/loft their torpedos into a really small area. Instead of say dive bombing from the vertical.

Declan

Right, but I’m saying the main shields around the Death Star should have been tighter, to keep out fighters. Even if the designers weren’t thinking about someone finding that obscure emergency exhaust vent, fighters were able to slip in and shoot the place up. Obviously, this was considered unimportant–they’re just snub fighters after all, all they can do is blow up a few unimportant surface emplacements–except that they could have been carrying nukes (or nuke equivalents) and caused serious, crippling damage to the station.

The opening crawl for RoTJ says: “Little does Luke know that the Galactic Empire has secretly begun construction on a new armored space station even more powerful than the first dreaded Death Star.”

Not “continued” or “resumed” or “ramped up”. I agree with your logic on building multiples simultaneously completely BTW. Of course, maybe they wanted to get the first one finished ASAP to get it out in the field, and planned on multiples once they finished the space trials.

Actually, it does, if we take “hypermatter” to mean “matter composed of hyperons”. Hyperons are baryons (things like protons and neutrons) with a higher mass, either because of having some c, s, t, or b quarks mixed in, or by being in what’s effectively an excited energy state. There’s some speculation, though, that matter composed of equal parts u, d, and s quarks might be more stable in bulk than ordinary matter, so you can therefore extract energy out of matter by converting some of the d quarks to s. There’s a very high potential barrier against this happening, but it would be catalyzed by the presence of some pre-existing strange matter. So to build a strange-matter reactor (aka hypermatter reactor), you need to produce a lump of strange matter somehow, and then keep it well-isolated and gradually feed it normal matter. Disrupt the containment, though, and the core is going to start converting all of the normal matter in its vicinity.

This could even explain why the second one was built so much more quickly than the first, and why it was larger: Though the machinery of the Death Star was destroyed, the strange-matter core was still around, and was in fact bigger than it originally was. The Rebels didn’t know enough to so anything about it, but the Empire did, and was able to salvage it. If we arbitrarily assume that the reactor was the most difficult/time consuming part of the station to build, salvaging the old one would then mean that they’d have a big leg up on building the new station.

Actually, the official canon is that 3 years passed between ANH and ESB, and then another year passed between ESB and RotJ. Note the notes at the beginning of the “Synopsis” sections:

All that you need to know is that whatever the torpedo hit, it is enough to create an unstoppable cascading catostrophic failure in the reactor. Sort of like the Bismark landing a single shell in the Hood’s magazine.

Well, there is the simple explanation that they simply did not have an arsenal of nukes or Calamari built cruisers on Yavin. They had a fighter/bomber wing of X and Y wing fighters.

Also they could not “just” fly around dropping bombs on a 60 mile wide armored space station with impunity anyway. Nearly all the fighters were destroyed or damaged in just getting Lukes torpedo to its target.

Right. This was a coordinated battle plan: Have the flight wings try to clear some gun emplacements that lie along the route to the exhaust port. Then, send a main torpedo fighter down the trench, with two wingmen to protect him. Have backup waves in case the first one fails.

Oh yeah—and watch for enemy fighters.

Dont forget to - Stay on target…

The canon on the first death star attack is that it used 30 ships, mixed between X- and Y-wings (Red and Gold squadrons) of which there were three survivors, Luke, Wedge and an unnamed Y-wing pilot.

The reason they choose not to just damage it is that it would still leave the Empire with a giant planet killing superweapon that had already killed one major contributor to the Alliance. They were going to have to destroy it sooner or later to win the war. Evacuation of the Yavin base did not even seem to be a consideration on the Rebels part. All of the high command shown to that point (ie Leia and Dodonna) were still in the CinC when the Deathstar cleared the planet and had a shot at the base. If Luke’s shot had failed the Rebellion would have ended there. It is established in the EU that this victory is the turning point that lead races like the MonCalamari and Bothans to join with the Alliance. That is how they explain why there are no non-human rebels shown until Episode 3.

I get that there were probably good reasons why the Rebels had no choice but to go after the exhaust vent at Yavin. It’s just that the destruction of the Death Star is treated as if it were one of those typical disasters (from the Imperial point of view), caused by a series of low-probability, seemingly insignificant failures which all add up to a cataclysmic failure of the system as a whole:

  1. The exhaust vent leading to the reactor.

  2. The shields won’t keep out snub fighters, because they obviously aren’t a threat (only capital ships could possibly even damage something that big).

  3. The Rebels manage to breach security and steal complete technical schematics for the station.

  4. The newest Rebel recruit is strong with the Force.

Any one of those conditions fails, and the Empire wins, right? If there’s no exhaust vent to begin with, at most the Rebels send in a few squadrons of one or two-man fighters, who shoot up a few unimportant surface installations before their inevitable doom. If the Rebels don’t get the Death Star plans, ditto. (Without the plans, the odds of them finding the exhaust vent on their own are nil.) Even if the Rebels do get the plans, without Luke the Empire might lose, but it’s quite likely that all the other Rebel pilots would fail to hit the target before being shot down, and shortly thereafter that’s it for the Hidden Rebel Base. And of course, if the shields are just a bit tighter, then even Luke Skywalker can do nothing but fly around helplessly saying “Geeze, look at the size of that thing!”–at Endor, as long as the Death Star II’s shields were up, it was clear nobody could do anything.

But I’m saying that minor failure #2–the shields not being tight enough to keep out snub figthers–is actually a huge, glaring, unforgivable design flaw. The thing is, in-universe everyone agrees that without some kind of million-to-one shot to make, obviously small one or two-man fighters couldn’t possibly carry a weapon big enough to cause serious damage to a large installation. But that doesn’t make much sense–these people live in a civilization able to blow up entire planets; and their small fighter craft can’t match those of a puny single-planet culture in destructive capability? Sure, three one-megaton bombs wouldn’t come close to destroying the Death Star, but in the right place (and that main superlaser dish would make a much easier target than a two-meter-wide exhaust vent) they could surely screw things up enough to entail lengthy and time-consuming repairs. And if the Empire were going after a major planet, not just a hidden base, or a major planet with supposedly no defenses which has been caught completely off guard, you could have waves of hundreds of small craft going in on semi-suicide missions to pound all areas of the battle station’s surface with nukes or some equivalent thereof; even if only 10% get through, that battle station is going to be in some serious hurt.

All of which the station designers really should have thought of, and tightened up the shields in the first place. Then their super terror weapon really would have been invulnerable. Of course, that would make for a pretty depressing movie, but, as fun as the original trilogy is, too much of the plot is driven by colossal acts of stupidity by both sides.

Well, hell, if Leia knew that the Millenium Falcon was being tracked, she should have told Solo to drop them off at some neutral planet and then she, Luke, and the droids could have chartered another ship to take them to Yavin. The rebel base would have remained undiscovered. They could have plotted the attack on the Death Star at their convenience.

If the Empire was smart, the rebels wouldn’t have had the time for any attack. The rebel base was on one of Yavin’s moons, but when the Death Star got there, Yavin was in the way. They waited while they went around Yavin until they had a clear shot at the moon. Why? They’ve got a gun that can blow up a freakin’ planet. If Yavin is in the way, boom. Once the dust clears, if there’s anything left of the moon, boom, again.