How Much Would it Cost to Build a Real-Life Death Star?


The U.S. Military is good at spending huge sums of money on expensive weapons. A price that is usually fluctuating between 500 to 600 billion dollars and constant requests for an increased budget account for an insane amount of government spending going to the protection of our country.

But what if they wanted to expand to a new frontier, perhaps beyond Earth? If humans have learned anything about space travel, it’s that it is very costly. How much would it cost to build a space-based superweapon like the Death Star? 

Believe it or not, there was a petition on We The People, which got 100,000 votes, enough to make the White House respond. Unsurprisingly, the US government didn’t think it was the best idea. They responded by saying, “The administration does not support blowing up planets,” and “Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that could be exploited by a one-man starship?”

As silly as the petition was, there are estimates on how much it would cost to build a Death Star in real life. Lehigh University determined that it would cost 852 quadrillion dollars just to produce the steel required for construction, without taking the following into account: The communications equipment, weapons, personnel, and day to day operating costs of our hypothetical Death Star.

That 850 quadrillion dollar price tag is more than 13 thousand times the gross domestic product (GDP) of the entire world, and once you start considering the full price things get even more ridiculous. 

A British energy company crunched the numbers, and the cost of operating a Death Star is truly absurd. After the upfront cost of constructing the base, the daily cost to keep it running would be an unbelievable 7.8 octillion dollars. That’s more than 100 trillion times the annual economic activity of the entire planet.

It’s hard to fathom that huge of a sum, but when you break down everything that goes into running a space station of that magnitude it starts to make sense. 

The first Death Star depicted in Star Wars: Episode IV is said to have been 100-140 kilometers in diameter and crewed by 1.7 million military personnel, 400 thousand maintenance droids, 250 thousand civilians, and many more independent contractors. Assuming that you don’t have to pay the droids or civilians and that you could get away with paying everyone the same low rate of 10 dollars an hour, paying your staff alone would set you back over 32 trillion per year, which is almost twice the total US national debt.

Lighting the whole space station would cost 52 billion dollars per day and every single load of laundry would cost 200 million. Then there is waste disposal, feeding the crew, fueling fighters, moving faster than light travel, and of course, powering the giant laser which would cost a reasonable sum of 8 octillion dollars per use. Assuming you didn’t fire the laser very often, this brings us to the daily operating cost of 7.8 octillion. 

Okay, so it’s pretty reasonable to assume that we won’t be building a Death Star any time soon, but will it ever be possible in the future? Probably not. 

While Earth does have plenty of steel required to build a Death Star, in fact, enough to build two million of them, the problem is that this iron is mostly located in the earth’s core. This would be hugely difficult and dangerous to remove, assuming we ever figure out how to do it.

Even if we did manage to get enough iron on the surface, it would take over 800,000 years to produce the required amount of steel — just to build the shell of the Death Star.

Then to launch all that steel into orbit at the current cost of $20,000 per kilogram, you’re looking at over 21 quintillion dollars before you can even begin assembly. The more cost-effective option would be to mine the required resources from asteroids or moons near the construction site. Of course, this would still be very expensive for a one-planet species like us. 

Even for the Empire, building a Death Star would have been hugely expensive. According to one Star Wars expert, at its peak, the Empire controlled one and a half million core worlds and 69 million colonies, all linked together by a single economy.

So if we want to build a Death Star, we have a lot of work to do as a human species. And if we do, hopefully, we will learn from history and not put a conveniently sized thermal exhaust port anywhere on it.