Rogue One and Building the Death Star

Building the Death Star
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Death Star, Ph: Film Frame, ©Lucasfilm LFL

With Rogue One officially coming out tomorrow, I wanted to revisit my paper from a year ago: It’s a Trap: Emperor Palpatine’s Poison Pill. Specifically, since this takes place before Episode IV, I want to look again at the costs associated with building the first Death Star and how that was used to calibrate the size of the Galactic Economy.

To deduce the costs of the Death Star being built in Rogue One, the first Death Star, I began by looking at the petition to the White House in which an estimated cost of over $850 QUADRILLION was given for building such a moon-sized battle station. However, going back through the sources, this value is only for the raw materials. Scaling up the cost from raw materials to the full cost changed that estimate by a few orders of magnitude, all the way to $193 QUINTILLION (that’s 193 followed by 18 zeros).

As evidenced by the discussions taking place in the trailers for Rogue One, the building of the first Death Star was a massive military research and develop project. Thus to use the cost of the Death Star to find the size of the Galactic Economy, I looked at history to find comparable projects. Ultimately I settled on a comparison to the Manhattan Project (building the first atomic bomb). That project cost 0.21% of US GDP per year from 1942-1946. As such, assuming the same cost profile, the Death Star’s $193 QUINTILLION would be 0.21% of the GGP [Gross Galactic Product] over its 20 year construction time. This leads to an estimated $4.6 SEXTILLION (21 zeros) in GGP per year on average. Sure makes the costs seem much smaller, though still big enough to damage the Galactic financial system.

We’ll just have to see if Rogue One has scenes in which Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, and Grand Moff Tarkin fret over the galactic finances in building this moon-sized battle station.

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