The Death Star is a fictional spacecraft and galactic superweapon appearing in the Star Wars science-fiction franchise created by George Lucas. It is capable of destroying an entire planet with its powerful superlaser.
Origin and design
Although details, such as the superlaser's location, shifted between different concept models during production of Star Wars, the notion of the Death Star being a large, spherical space station over 100 kilometers in diameter was consistent in all of them. The Death Star was created by the dean of special effects, John Stears. The buzzing sound counting down to the Death Star firing its superlaser comes from the Flash Gordon serials. Portraying an incomplete yet powerful space station posed a problem for Industrial Light & Magic's modelmakers for Return of the Jedi. Only the front side of the 137-centimeter model was completed, and the image was flipped horizontally for the final film. Both Death Stars were depicted by a combination of complete and sectional models and matte paintings.
The original Death Star's completed form appears in Star Wars. Commanded by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), it is the Galactic Empire's "ultimate weapon", a huge spherical space station over 100 kilometers in diameter capable of destroying a planet with one shot of its superlaser. The film opens with Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) transporting the station's schematics to the Rebel Alliance to aid them in destroying the Death Star. Tarkin orders the Death Star to destroy Leia's home world of Alderaan in an attempt to pressure her into giving him the location of the secret Rebel base; she gives them the false location of Dantooine, but Tarkin has Alderaan destroyed anyway, as a demonstration of the Death Star's firepower and the Empire's resolve. Later, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO, and R2-D2 are pulled aboard the station by a tractor beam and rescue the Princess under harrowing circumstances. Darth Vader senses Obi-Wan's presence once the Millennium Falcon lands on the Death Star, and he seeks him out, setting up the iconic light saber duel between the two, but not before Obi-Wan deactivates the tractor beam controls to allow the others to escape. Later, Luke returns with a fighter squad to attack its weak point and manages to destroy it using his newfound powers of the force before it annihilates the rebel base on Yavin IV.
Return of the Jedi features a second Death Star still under construction at the orbit of the second moon of Endor. Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) send the Rebels false information that the station's weapons systems are not operational in order to lure them into a trap, and bring Luke on board to turn him to the dark side of the Force. In the film's climax, a reformed Vader throws Palpatine down the station's reactor core, killing him, and is mortally wounded in the process. Skywalker escapes with Vader's body moments before the Rebels destroy the core, causing a chain reaction that brings it down with a massive explosion.
The Death Star explosions featured in the special edition of A New Hope and in Return of the Jedi are rendered with a Praxis effect, wherein a flat ring of matter erupts from the explosion.
The upcoming December 2016 film Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One will focus on a band of rebels stealing the plans for the first Death Star.
Both Death Stars appear throughout the Original Star Wars "Legends" Expanded Universe. The first Death Star's construction is the subject of Michael Reaves and Steve Perry's novel Death Star. In LucasArts' Star Wars: Battlefront II, the player participates in a mission to secure crystals used in the Death Star's superlaser. The first Death Star under construction acts as the final stage in the video game, The Force Unleashed. Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy introduces the Maw Cluster of black holes that protect a laboratory where the Death Star prototype was built (consisting of the super structure, power core, and Super Laser). National Public Radio's A New Hope adaptation portrays Leia (Ann Sachs) and Bail Organa's (Stephen Elliott) discovery of the Death Star's existence and Leia's mission to steal the space station's schematics. The first level of LucasArts' Dark Forces gives the player a supporting role in Leia's mission, while a mission in Battlefront II tasks the player with acting as a stormtrooper or Darth Vader in an attempt to recover the plans and capture Leia. Steve Perry's novel Shadows of the Empire describes a mission that leads to the Rebels learning of the second Death Star's existence, and that mission is playable in LucasArts' X-Wing Alliance combat flight simulator. Numerous LucasArts titles recreate the movies' attacks on the Death Stars, and the Death Star itself is a controllable weapon in the Rebellion and Empire at War strategy game. A Death Star variation appears in Kevin J. Anderson's novel Darksaber, and a prototype version of the Death Star can be found in his novel 'Jedi Search".
The first Death Star is depicted in various sources of having a crew of 265,675, as well as 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 30,984 stormtroopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 180,216 pilots and support crew. Its hangars contain assault shuttles, blastboats, Strike cruisers, land vehicles, support ships, and 7,293 TIE fighters. It is also protected by 10,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,600 ion cannons, and at least 768 tractor beam projectors. Various sources state the first Death Star has a diameter of between 140 and 160 kilometers. There is a broader range of figures for the second Death Star's diameter, ranging from 160 to 900 kilometers.
In the Disney attraction, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, guests can travel inside an uncompleted Death Star during one of the randomized ride sequences.
The 2014 children's book Star Wars: Death Star Battles prominently detailed the 1st and 2nd Death Stars.
The 2014 book Star Wars: Tarkin detailed the life of Grand Moff Tarkin, and prominently featured the first Death Star.
The upcoming 2015 book Star Wars: Aftermath will take place during the aftermath of the second Death Star's destruction.
The canonical population of the 1st Death Star was 1.7 million people and 400,000 droids. 
KTCK (SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket) in Dallas were the first to use the term "Death Star" to describe the new mammoth Cowboys Stadium, now AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas. The term has since spread to local media and is generally accepted as a proper nickname for the stadium.
AT&T Corporation's logo introduced in 1982 is informally referred to as the "Death Star". Ars Technica referred to "the AT&T Death Star" in an article criticizing a company data policy. Competitor T-Mobile mocked AT&T's "Death Star" logo and "Empire-like reputation" in a press release.
Additionally, a few astronomers[who?] sometimes use the term "Death Star" to describe Nemesis, a hypothetical star postulated in 1984 to be responsible for gravitationally forcing comets and asteroids from the Oort cloud toward Earth.
Kenner and AMT created a playset and a model, respectively, of the first Death Star. In 2005 and 2008, Lego released models of Death Star II and Death Star I, respectively. Palitoy created a heavy card version of the Death Star as a playset for the vintage range of action figures in 1979 in the UK, Australia and Canada. Both Death Stars are part of different Micro Machines three-packs. The Death Stars and locations in them are cards in Decipher, Inc.'s and Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars Customizable Card Game and Star Wars Trading Card Game, respectively. Hasbro released a Death Star model that transforms into a Darth Vader mech. Estes Industries released a flying model rocket version.
White House petition
In 2012, a proposal on the White House's web site urging the United States government to build a real Death Star as an economic stimulus and job creation measure gained more than 25,000 signatures, enough to qualify for an official response. The official (tongue-in-cheek) response was released in January 2013 and noted that the cost of building a real Death Star has been estimated at $850 quadrillion, while the International Business Times cited a Centives economics blog calculation that at current rates of steel production, the Death Star would not be ready for more than 833,000 years. The White House response also stated "the Administration does not support blowing up planets" and questions about funding a weapon "with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship" as reasons for denying the petition.
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