FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 21 December 2016

So You Want To Build A Death Star? Here's How To Get Started

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Martin Archer, Queen Mary University of London

I’m very excited about seeing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which tells the tale summarised in the original Star Wars’ opening crawl. This is the story of how the rebels stole the plans to the original “Death Star" - a space station the size of a small moon with a weapon powerful enough to destroy a planet.

If we could get our hands on those plans, could we build a similar fortress? I decided to try and work out some aspects of how a Death Star might actually work. In Star Wars lore, the 120km (75-mile) diameter space station was made from quadanium steel (a fictional metal alloy) and crewed by 2m Imperial personnel, including officers, Stormtroopers and TIE pilots.

So would it possible in the real world? Let’s not worry about the vast quantities of raw materials required. For example, at current production rates of steel it would take 182 times the current age of the universe to accrue enough. I’m more concerned conceptually with how to power such a colossal battle station and how to generate gravity for everyone on board. It turns out our conventional technologies might not cut it.

The International Space Station requires about 0.75W of power for every m³ of the space station. These are provided by eight solar arrays, 112 feet (34m) long by 39 feet (12m) wide. Even if we had 100% efficient solar panels covering the much larger Death Star, we’d still be a factor of 45 times short of the ISS’s power requirements per unit volume. Not to mention that power would severely diminish if we took the space station further away from the sun.

You might think we could learn lessons from the sci-fi classic 2001 A Space Odyssey in terms of the gravity and just spin the Death Star to create artificial gravity via centrifugal forces. To replicate the gravity on Earth (9.81 metres per second squared or 1 g), the station would only need to revolve once every 3.5 minutes, which doesn’t sound too absurd.

But there was a reason the station was ring-shaped in 2001. The centrifugal force is proportional to the radius of your circular path. As you travel either towards the centre of the station or towards the poles, this radius decreases meaning the artificial gravity would start to vanish. If indeed gravity was created this way, it calls into question the Death Star’s spherical design.

Dyson sphere

Perhaps the clue was in the name the whole time. What if at the heart of the Death Star is an artificial star? Surely that would solve the gravity problem? This makes the station something of a Dyson sphere, the sort of technological megastructure physicist Freeman Dyson imagined advanced civilisations might be able to build to harness all the energy from their stars. However, Dyson spheres of the rigid shell variety usually run into problems from being under immense stresses due to the gravitational forces. Even if the sphere isn’t ripped apart by this, just a small push certainly would be enough to send the structure crashing into its star.

Building a Death Star.

But Dyson spheres are usually imagined to be the size of the Earth’s orbit around the sun. For a much smaller Death Star, most of the problems with the Dyson sphere go away. The 13.2km diameter reactor core would only require a mass 370 times less than our moon’s. It turns out while steel and titanium would just about fail under these conditions, the wonder material graphene, for example, could easily withstand the gravitational forces involved.

And we wouldn’t actually need a real star at the centre of the station - the future technology of nuclear fusion could easily provide enough power. While at the moment we tend to put more energy in than we get out in our fusion experiments, many plasma physicists think the key is going bigger and hope that the ITER experiment, which will be one-third of the volume of an Olympic swimming pool, will turn the tide in this regard. If successful, we could expect power from our Death Star up to two million times that consumed by the entire human race.

But there are still problems. The pressures involved inside our Death Star reactor would be immense. The artificial star’s own gravity would not be enough to contain the fusion plasma, so we would need something extra. As we’ve learned from thinking about lightsabers, magnetic fields could provide the solution. The only snag is that we’d need some of the strongest magnetic fields in the universe - a million times greater than we’ve ever created on Earth and comparable to those of magnetars - a type of neutron star with an extremely powerful magnetic field.

Back to the drawing board it seems, unless I can get my hands on those plans …

The ConversationMartin Archer, Space Plasma Physicist, Queen Mary University of London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted. You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Angst in America, Part 5: The Crisis We Can’t Muddle Through
Was Marx Right?
News Blog
UFO Sightings Are At Record Heights
What We Read Today 28 April 2017
Kim Jong Un Pretends To Fly An Airplane
21 April 2017: ECRI's WLI Growth Index Continues to Slow
Final April 2017 Michigan Consumer Sentiment Continues Positive Trend
April 2017 Chicago Purchasing Managers Barometer New Orders Close To Three-Year High
Advance Estimate 1Q2017 GDP Quarter-over-Quarter Growth at 0.7 Percent.
Rail Week Ending 22 April 2017: Marginally Slower Week
March 2017 Median Household Income Not Significantly Different
Infographic Of The Day: The Largest Company Headquartered In Each State
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Down, Dollar, Oil, And Gold All Up, Trump Will Pay ACA $, State Dept To Cut 9%, Trump Tax Plan, UK House Prices Drop, France GDP Growth Slows, And More
What Americans Shop For With Coupons Online
Fact Check: Are A Million African Migrants Already On Their Way To Europe?
Investing Blog
Think Differently For Better Trading Results
Facebook Is Coming After Snapchat From All Sides
Opinion Blog
Trump's Tax Plan Is Brilliant Politics And Even Better Economics
Facts Are Not Always More Important Than Opinions: Here's Why
Precious Metals Blog
A New Age For Gold
Live Markets
28Apr2017 Market Close: Wall Street Closed Mostly Down On News The U.S. Economy Grew At Its Weakest Pace In Three Years, WTI Crude Settles In The Low 49 Handle
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2017 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved