How Much Would it Cost to Build a Death Star?

With the Rise of Skywalker in theaters, we take a look at what it would take to construct a death star.

Star wars fans now have a new movie to enjoy, as The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters. Fans of the franchise often debate the merits of each film of the series, from the original to the latest installments. One of the earliest questions, left over from the first film, was why the Galactic Empire could have built their premier weapon — the Death Star — with a tunnel leading to its core, allowing Luke Skywalker to destroy the mighty space station.

The original Death Star from Star Wars.
The original Death Star from Star Wars.
The original Death Star was a weapon that would have bankrupted any galactic empire. Promotional image used under fair use.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story showed how the Death Star — a space station large enough to be confused with a small moon — was designed, and why it had this fatal flaw.

With the release of The Rise of Skywalker, we take a look how much would it cost to build a massive planet-destroying space station like the Death Star. Darth Vader and the Emperor certainly would not have spared any expense in building the massive weapon, but the costs of such a planet-killer would have killed the Empire before Luke and his comrades ever got within range of the moon-sized weapon platform.

The original, smaller, Death Star is said to measure more than 120 kilometers (75 miles) in diameter. By comparison, the largest aircraft carriers in the world, the Nimitz class ships, stretch out 333 meters (1,100 feet) in length, and they tower nearly 80 meters (262 feet) tall. Assembled, these carriers weigh, roughly, 106,000 tons.

By comparison, the first Death Star would have weighed in at more than 1,200,000,000,000,000 tons, more than 11.3 billion times the weight of Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

Now, let’s consider the materials needed. To assemble such a station, collecting all the steel in the world would not even come close to providing enough material for such a weapon. Currently, 1.4 billion tons of steel is produced annually all over the world. At this rate, it would take almost 850,000 years to produce enough steel to complete the planet-buster.

Each Nimitz class aircraft carrier costs $4.5 billion dollars, and a project 11.3 billion times larger would suggest a cost of more than 50 billion billion dollars. The GDP of all the countries in the world is $88 trillion, meaning we would need over 568,000 times the global GDP to construct even a small death star.

The flight deck of an aircraft carrier.
The flight deck of an aircraft carrier.
The flight deck of the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo J. Reyes.

Once the Death Star is built, it also needs to be launched into space, and those costs would be even higher. Using SpaceX (the most affordable vehicle to reach space) it costs around 1,000 a kilogram to bring a payload to low Earth orbit. Using the Falcon Heavy, it would be possible to bring the materials for a death star to space for around $1,320,000,000,000,000,000,000 (although Elon Musk might offer a discount on an order that size).

This assumes that a company of military spacecraft, costs of 2.5 million crew members, and maintenance would scale in size and costs from Nimitz-class carriers to death stars.

Together, construction and launch of a small death star to low Earth orbit would cost around $1,370,000,000,000,000,000,000. A larger Death Star, like that seen in more recent Star Wars movies, would cost significantly more.

If Darth Vader hadn’t thrown Emperor Palpatine to his death, his accountants surely would have done so as soon as the bills came due.

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